Kashmir’s largest city.
Listen up, Kashmir People Saying India We are not People who bow down. We Won’t Bow Down! If we Don’t Succeed today, Our History Will Be erased. It’s the day Muslims normally gather to pray. But in recent weeks, it’s also become a day of protest.
Kashmir People Saying: I Am Alive Freedom, even if I die Freedom, On my coffin, write Freedom.
Indian authorities are working hard to keep a lid on displays like this. But they can’t change how people feel. As protests break out across Kashmir, Indian officials repeat what has become a well-worn soundbite. “There have been no major law and order situations reported from across the Valley. Life is slowly returning to normal.” “And the situation is returning back slowly to the normal.” But things here don’t seem normal.
Kashmir has been a conflict zone for decades. But when India moved to strip the region of its autonomy on Aug. 5, the situation came to this: thousands of more troops and a curfew bringing daily life to a standstill. Phone lines and internet access were shut down, cutting off around eight million Kashmiris from the outside world. So, we came to see what’s actually happening here. We visit a neighborhood known for frequent clashes between protesters and Indian security forces. People, here, are in mourning. Fahmida Shagoo was at home with her children and her in-laws on Aug. 9. Police started firing tear gas at protesters outside. Fahmida’s husband, Rafiq, helped rush her to the hospital. But doctors could not revive her. Sudden death and no one to hold accountable. In addition to tearing gas, for years, Indian forces have used pellet guns to quell unrest in Kashmir. These shotguns fire cartridges full of lead pellets that lodge themselves in the flesh. They are supposedly non-lethal but can cause life-changing disabilities. Parvez Sofi says he was at home when he heard a commotion outside. When he opened the door to see what was happening, he became a target. In the name of maintaining law and order, Indian forces have a license to shoot with near impunity in Kashmir. There is no official number for the injured. But in just one hospital here, sources told us over 60 people had been admitted with pellet wounds since the lockdown began. Still, this doesn’t stop some people. And lives here have been upended in other ways, too. This woman’s 22-year-old son, Mehraj Ud-Din, was arrested. She doesn’t know why he was taken. Since then, authorities have been giving her conflicting information. This is not an isolated case. Since early August, thousands have been arrested without being charged. And there’s no indication when or if they’ll be released. Although some landlines have been reconnected, Kashmir is still largely cut off from the rest of the world. That helps authorities keep stories like these quiet. But as the days pass, they’re getting louder.