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Besieged Kashmiri Neighborhood in Defies India’s Nationalist Government

Tuesday 20 August 2019
Besieged Kashmiri Neighborhood in Defies India’s Nationalist Government

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Alwaght- For more than a week, the young men of Soura, a densely populated enclave in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, have been taking turns to maintain an around-the-clock vigil at the entry points to their neighborhood, with the aim of keeping Indian security forces, and particularly the paramilitary police, out of the area, Reuters reported

Each of the dozen or so entrances have been blocked with makeshift barricades of bricks, corrugated metal sheets, wooden slabs and felled tree trunks. Groups of youths armed with stones congregate behind the biggest obstacles.

“We have no voice. We are exploding from within,” said Ejaz, 25, who like many other residents in Soura interviewed by Reuters gave only one name, saying he feared arrest. “If the world won’t listen to us too, then what should we do? Pick up guns?”

Soura, home to about 15,000 people, is becoming the epicenter of resistance to Indian government plans to remove the partial autonomy that was enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state. The enclave, which has effectively become a no-go zone for the Indian security forces, is now a barometer of the ability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government to impose its will in Kashmir after its dramatic move on Aug. 5 to tighten its control over the region.

In Soura, it’s hard to find anyone who supports Modi’s move. Many of the more than two dozen residents interviewed by Reuters over the past week referred to the Indian prime minister as “zaalim”, an Urdu word meaning “tyrant”.

The constitutional change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir and apply for jobs in local government. People in Kashmir say they fear that India’s dominant Hindu population will overrun the lush state at the foot of the Himalayas, and Kashmiris’ identity, culture and religion will be diluted and repressed.

“We feel like we are guarding the LOC here,” said Ejaz. The LOC refers to the Line of Control, the highly militarized de facto border between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. For decades, Kashmir has been a source of friction between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Both nations claim the region in full and have fought two wars over the territory since 1947.

Residents in Soura say that dozens of people have been injured in clashes with the paramilitary police over the past week. It is unclear how many have been detained.

 

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