With a heavy hand, India rides out Kashmir's year of disquiet
Coils of concertina wire, remnants of makeshift road blocks, lie close to the broken tar of roads dug up to keep the security forces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi out of this area of 15,000 people in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar.
A year after stripping Kashmir of its autonomy, Modi's government has prevented widespread protests and violence, with a heavy hand on people who for weeks had barricaded themselves in and staged protests, hurling stones at federal troops armed with pellet guns and tear gas. Security forces eventually broke through.
But local politicians warn that anger is rife with young men still picking up arms - and stones.
Barricades and books in restive Kashmir neighbourhood
Anchar, a densely-populated, working-class area of Srinagar, is a pocket of resistance to India's revocation in early August of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state. By Danish Siddiqui
Few people step outside Anchar, a neighbourhood ringed by steel barricades and razor wire in Indian Kashmir, where police have imposed a weeks-long region-wide clampdown to stifle protests
As night falls, groups of youths, many wearing masks and armed with stones and tree branches, are huddled around bonfires, sipping tea provided by neighbours. "I am spending the night outdoors so I can protect my family," said Fazil, a 16-year-old student. "There is no fear in me," he added, holding a thick tree branch as he watched the street from a checkpoint
Worshippers gathered in the mosque in Anchar for Friday prayers listen intently to Hayat Ahmed Bhat, a Kashmiri activist, prior to a street demonstration
Seven weeks since the clampdown and a degree of normalcy has returned. Telephone landlines are working again, though mobile and Internet networks remain suspended. Shops open briefly to allow people to restock supplies and traffic is back on Srinagar's streets. In Anchar, however, the situation remains tense
The neighbourhood is a no-go zone for security forces. Entrances to the area are guarded by young people manning barricades made of tree trunks, electricity poles and barbed wire to keep the police out. Laneways have been dug up to block security vehicles
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said Kashmir's special status, which allowed only residents to buy property and hold government jobs, restricted its development and encouraged a separatist revolt that has killed 40,000 people since 1989. Indian authorities have arrested nearly 4,000 people since the decision
With government services like schools still shut in Anchar, four college students have set up a makeshift school, giving lessons to 200 children for a few hours each day. "The education of students in this locality is suffering because of the turmoil. We won't let our future generations suffer," said Adil, a college student turned teacher
"Bullets and pellets every day": Anchar's female residents has also taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the revocation of Kashmir's special status and the clampdown by Prime Minister Modi and his ruling Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party
Rubina's 15-year-old son was injured by pellets fired by security forces while he was returning home from Friday prayers. The boy's head is heavily bandaged and he hasn't spoken since the incident, but the family would rather treat him at home than take him to a city hospital, fearing he could be detained by police
"If he has to go out for a change of bandage to the nearby government hospital, he will be accompanied by six or seven women, so they don't snatch him away," Rubina said
More than seven weeks after the crackdown began, there is little sign of an end to the stand-off in this neighbourhood, home to some 15,000 people
This Himalayan region has been at the heart of tensions between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan for decades, the cause of two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours. Both countries claim the region in full, but each rules only in part.
On 5 August 2019, Modi split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally controlled territories and took away its special privileges, saying this was necessary to better integrate the region with the rest of India.
New Delhi flooded troops into the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, where insurgents have fought since the 1990s. India detained thousands, imposed harsh movement restrictions and forced a communications blackout.
Kashmir: Living with the curfew
Since the leadership in New Delhi revoked the special autonomy status, previously laid down in the Indian constitution, for the state of Jammu and Kashmir at the beginning of August, the region has been subject to punitive restrictions. By David Ehl
A unique state: Jammu and Kashmir is the only Indian state in which the majority of the population is Muslim. Since its independence in 1947, India has seen itself as a multi-ethnic state. However, this self-image is shifting towards a Hindu nation-state: Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist BJP dominates politics, and in May it once again became the strongest political force
Under house arrest: Since 5 August, a curfew has been in force for the people of the Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir. The central government has imposed it because it fears an uprising against it: the Hindu nationalist government has rescinded the special status of the majority Muslim region and extended its control over the state
Information blackout: Internet and telephone lines are dead. If you are lucky, you may be able to make a quick phone call to a few government agencies. Many have not heard from their relatives since the curfew began. A handful of local newspapers nevertheless continue to be published, albeit under adverse conditions – and they are quickly sold out
Behind bars: not all Kashmiris are at home, like this family in Srinagar. Police reported 300 arrests last week, partly as "preventative measures". According to Reuters, there are rumours of 500 people being arrested. Activists distributed a video of an 11-year-old boy reporting alleged police violence in custody – and the existence of even younger detainees
Tears of despair: Jameela, the mother of 28-year-old Koran teacher Irfan Ahmad Hurra, reports in tears that her son was arrested on 5 August. "I don't know what he is accused of. We don't know where he is." She said he was ill and needed medication. According to his family, Hurra had been in custody in the past, accused of causing unrest and property damage
It's good to be a soldier...: While the Indian soldiers can move freely, the more than four million inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley are officially not even allowed to go shopping in the city. The Indian army has cultivated a strong presence in the region for years. In the days before the announcement at least 10,000 additional soldiers were transferred to Kashmir
Everyday life in a state of emergency: photos like this give the appearance of normality despite the blockade. Most inhabitants of the region have experienced such curfews several times, for example in 2008, 2010 and 2013. Back then there were mass protests against the Indian government, with curfews being imposed as a result – but never as extensive as today: it is the first time that the landline telephone network has been switched off
Where are the customers? The provincial capital Srinagar with its one million inhabitants is actually a lively place. But because of the curfew, it's not just these bakers who lose the customers for their goods. Only for the Muslim Eid festival were the inhabitants allowed to go shopping more extensively. The curfew leads to supply bottlenecks, even for medicines
In Srinagar, residents now refer to their location as an "open-air prison": in some places there have been demonstrations, which the police are said to have dissolved with tear gas – but this is not officially confirmed. Many Kashmiri are increasingly frustrated about "haalat" – "the situation". One man told a news agency that his mobile phone was only good for throwing at soldiers
Resentment under wraps: journalists who were able to talk to the local population reported increasing frustration. Phrases like "we will fight against India" are often heard. Many people exchange information about where uprisings could take place. There have long been armed rebels in the region fighting for free Kashmir. In 2018, 256 of them were killed
The long arm of New Delhi: While the Kashmiris remain at home, they fear that their region may change and that they may become a minority: The special status abolished by the BJP government prevented investors from the rest of the country from settling in Kashmir. Days before the announcement, Hindus were removed from the region, but in the long run they could have a major impact
Is Kashmir on the brink of new violence? The children who stand with these soldiers only carry toy guns – but in the region the fear of real armed violence is great: Pakistan, which also claims to be the whole Kashmir region, sees a "danger for world peace". That is why the third riparian, the People's Republic of China, has now, at Pakistan's request, brought the issue before the UN Security Council
Many of those measures have since been eased, but the Internet remains throttled and a subsequent COVID-19 lockdown - India has the world's third-highest coronavirus infections and rising fast - has forced millions of Kashmiris to stay in their homes for 12 months.
"The government said that they did it for the good of Jammu and Kashmir. What good things have happened since then? They have destroyed our economy," said Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, a former lawmaker. "Where is the development?"
Modi's government says it has undertaken reforms but that the pandemic, hitting Kashmir hard like the rest of India, got in the way. Reforms include legal changes to help non-Kashmiris who can now apply for government jobs and secure seats in colleges for their children, 10,000 new government jobs, extending federal schemes to the territory and bolstering the village-level administrative system.
"We have to try and win public sentiment," a government official told journalists, adding there is a push to improve roads, water and electrification.
Jammu and Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said security forces had kept up the pressure on the insurgency, killing 138 militants in the year to July, slightly more than the 129 killed in the same period last year. Still, officials express concern that there is little sign of a let-up in disaffected youth joining the armed revolt.
This year around 60 new recruits have joined the militant groups through July, compared with 80 for the same period last year, according to a government estimate.
"The challenge would be how do we tamp down the recruitment," the government official said.
Symbol of resistance
Two of Fatima Wani's three sons have found little work as labourers in the past 12 months, making it difficult to make ends meet. But the 62-year-old housewife's worry is with her eldest son, picked up for allegedly taking part in a protest and booked under the Public Safety Act, which allows for detention for up to two years without charge.
About 150 people arrested last year are still detained, two-thirds of them charged under the law, according to government data.
Wani said her family had to sell a cow to pay for their travel to the northern town of Agra to meet her son in prison. "He is innocent," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I want justice."
Police chief Kumar said arrests had been made of stone-throwers and associates of militants trying to stir up violence in the streets, some of whom had been booked under the security act.
In Soura, the indignation remains.
A young man, who gave his name as Sahil and claimed he had been detained three times by police for clashing with troops, said he wasn't going to back down.
"We are being suppressed, and I will fight against that suppression in whatever way I can," he said. "I will continue stone pelting." (AP)