Besieged occupied Kashmir neighbourhood in test of wills with India's Modi

Posted In: News Date:Aug 20th, 2019

SRINAGAR: For more than a week, the young men of Soura, a densely populated enclave in occupied Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, have been taking turns to maintain an around-the-clock vigil at the entry points to their neighbourhood.

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. The aim: to keep Indian security forces, and particularly the paramilitary police, out of the area.

“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 epicentre of resistance to Indian government plans to remove the partial autonomy that was enjoyed by Indian occupied 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 August 5 to tighten its control over the region.

The change, the government said, was necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India, tackle corruption and nepotism, and speed up its development, which Modi says is the key to securing lasting peace and defeating terrorism.