Inside the Kashmir That India Doesn’t Want the World to See | The Dispatch


It’s Friday on the streets of
Kashmir’s largest city. It’s the day Muslims
normally gather to pray. But in recent weeks, it’s also become
a day of protest. 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 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. A sudden death and no one
to hold accountable. In addition to tear 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
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.

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