Photo essay: 50 injured in Kashmir's worst protest since India's crackdown
SRINAGAR — By the late afternoon, at around 4 pm, the revered Janab Sahib mosque was full of protestors injured with pellet guns, tear gas and chili grenades fired by the Indian paramilitaries to quell the unrest in Srinagar’s Soura region of Indian-administered Kashmir.
On Friday, hundreds of angry Kashmiris, including women and children, gathered at the mosque after saying their prayers to protest against the Aug. 5 decision of the Indian government to revoke the state’s autonomy and statehood and to enforce a curfew and communications blockade – there’s no access to Internet or mobile phone services. Some landlines have been opened in the area. The restrictions have isolated most from medical care, with even more reachable hospitals running short of life-saving drugs.
“Go India, go back,” the protesters chanted. “There is only one solution, gun solution, gun solution!”
The protest remained non-violent until security forces tried to enter the area to disperse the demonstration. The locals had constructed walls from all sides to prevent the forces from entering the area surrounding the mosque. The troops shot pellet guns, tear gas and pepper gas shells into the crowd, and the protestors responded by throwing stones.
“They detain our boys without any charges and then blackmail us to stop protesting,” said a local resident on conditions of anonymity fearing reprisal by the forces in the future. “We won’t let them in.”
Within minutes, the whole area became a battleground between the protestors and the security forces. The fight, which continued for hours, left around 50 protestors severely injured. The injured protestors were attended by the locals themselves inside the mosque. The travel restrictions and fear of arrests prevented them from going to a hospital. Despite frequent protests in Kashmir Valley, the Indian officials claim that the situation is peaceful.
Earlier in the day, the locals suspected the security forces may attack to enter Soura, the epicenter of protests. So far, they have preventing the forces from entering.
“We are ready for everything, but we won’t let them in, even if we have to die,” said Sahil, a young man who didn’t want his full name to be used. “They (Indian forces) are killing us every day with their actions, so we are not afraid to die.”
Sahil gave up studying 10 years ago, saying students can’t really study with the atmosphere they face in Kashmir.
The Indian government has deployed thousands of paramilitary troops that roam the streets and block road entrances to enforce a tight curfew at sundown.
The locals at Soura are resisting with a similar tactic by blocking all its entry and exit points. People, including kids and old men, are guarding the gates ‘round the clock.
During the protest, some chanted for U.S. President Donald Trump to stop India from carrying out human rights violations in the region. Some also thanked neighboring Pakistan for raising the issue before the international community.
Kashmir is a disputed territory between the nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan. Both the countries have fought two of their three wars over control of the region – which they each claim in its entirety.
Locals said that the crackdown by the forces on Friday was the worst in 25 days since Aug 5. They also believe that the tension in the Valley is going to escalate in the days to come.