Night raids, arrests amid Kashmir lockdown

Families recount raids in their houses at night to arrest young Kashmiris and the vigils they’re holding to avoid them.

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Himalayan region of disputed Kashmir, one of the most militarised regions in the world, is claimed by both India and Pakistan, who administer parts of it.

On August 5, India revoked the partial autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir state and divided the Muslim-majority state into two territories to be controlled by the federal government.

An additional 35,000 paramilitary troops, more than the 700,000 already stationed in the region, were flown into the Kashmir valley in advance of the revocation.

The unprecedented moves were justified as facilitating development in the troubled region, where a popular movement for independence from Indian rule or a merger with Pakistan has been going on for decades.

In the weeks since Kashmir’s lockdown, hundreds of elected politicians, activists and trade unionists have been imprisoned or put under “house arrest”. Thousands of young men – including minors – have been arrested in night raids by the police, with many transported to jails outside the state.

Despite criticism from the human rights organisations, India says its actions are legal under the strict emergency laws in place in Kashmir since an armed rebellion began there in 1989.

The photos here show the effects of the forced disappearances of young men on their families and how the communities in Kashmir are responding to – and resisting – the crackdown.

Two Kashmiri men sit outside a shuttered phone-placement shop. Hours before scrapping of Kashmir’s special status, the region’s seven million inhabitants were put under an unofficial curfew and an indefinite communications blackout.

Two Kashmiri men sit outside a shuttered phone-placement shop. Hours before scrapping of Kashmir’s special status, the region’s seven million inhabitants were put under an unofficial curfew and an indefinite communications blackout.

Since August 5, more than 4,000 teenagers and young men have been arrested from their homes in the middle of the night under stringent detention laws. Many families are unaware of the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Since August 5, more than 4,000 teenagers and young men have been arrested from their homes in the middle of the night under stringent detention laws. Many families are unaware of the whereabouts of their loved ones.

On August 19, the Dar family from Buchpora neighbourhood in Srinagar said their sons were arrested the night before. ‘They scaled the walls, broke down the door and windows, and demanded to know who was inside. We showed them their [the sons’] identity cards, but they said they were stone pelters,’ said the mother of the two men. ‘We said: ‘No, they are not stone pelters, you can ask the neighbours. If they are stone pelters, you can arrest them. They both work as labourers.’ Then they started hitting me. They went upstairs and pulled the boys out of bed. One was pulled out by his hair. Then they hit my daughter and hit me as well. They beat up my sons too. And then they took them away. Initially we didn’t even know where they took them.’

On August 19, the Dar family from Buchpora neighbourhood in Srinagar said their sons were arrested the night before. ‘They scaled the walls, broke down the door and windows, and demanded to know who was inside. We showed them their [the sons’] identity cards, but they said they were stone pelters,’ said the mother of the two men. ‘We said: ‘No, they are not stone pelters, you can ask the neighbours. If they are stone pelters, you can arrest them. They both work as labourers.’ Then they started hitting me. They went upstairs and pulled the boys out of bed. One was pulled out by his hair. Then they hit my daughter and hit me as well. They beat up my sons too. And then they took them away. Initially we didn’t even know where they took them.’

The same night, the police also arrested a teenager named Arif from another house in the neighbourhood. His mother showed blood stains on the wall of his room, where police had dragged him out. Neighbours reported that a total of 10 young men were arrested from Buchpora alone that night. Arif’s mother said: ‘The police hit Arif a lot and blood started oozing from his face. As I began to call people for help, one of the military guys hit me on the head. They broke the window panes, destroyed a lot of things. They didn’t let us out of the house. They didn’t let us shout for help. There was military on all four sides, surrounding us, we couldn’t do anything. They just took him away.’

The same night, the police also arrested a teenager named Arif from another house in the neighbourhood. His mother showed blood stains on the wall of his room, where police had dragged him out. Neighbours reported that a total of 10 young men were arrested from Buchpora alone that night. Arif’s mother said: ‘The police hit Arif a lot and blood started oozing from his face. As I began to call people for help, one of the military guys hit me on the head. They broke the window panes, destroyed a lot of things. They didn’t let us out of the house. They didn’t let us shout for help. There was military on all four sides, surrounding us, we couldn’t do anything. They just took him away.’

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sister of the two young men picked up from Buchpora said, ‘My brothers stayed home, they didn’t go out much. It’s not just us saying this, you can ask anyone in the neighbourhood. They don’t pelt stones, they are innocent. This is a good neighbourhood, there are no strikes, no stone throwing, nothing. I don’t understand why they are doing this to us. They’re punishing us for no reason.’

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sister of the two young men picked up from Buchpora said, ‘My brothers stayed home, they didn’t go out much. It’s not just us saying this, you can ask anyone in the neighbourhood. They don’t pelt stones, they are innocent. This is a good neighbourhood, there are no strikes, no stone throwing, nothing. I don’t understand why they are doing this to us. They’re punishing us for no reason.’

Since the night raids and arrests began, a few neighbourhoods in downtown Srinagar have mobilised to protect themselves. Residents have erected barricades using leftover construction material, corrugated sheets, wheel barrows and any other objects they could find lying around. They dug trenches into the roads to stop police jeeps from entering. And warnings about possible raids are broadcast over the local mosque’s loudspeaker. 

Since the night raids and arrests began, a few neighbourhoods in downtown Srinagar have mobilised to protect themselves. Residents have erected barricades using leftover construction material, corrugated sheets, wheel barrows and any other objects they could find lying around. They dug trenches into the roads to stop police jeeps from entering. And warnings about possible raids are broadcast over the local mosque’s loudspeaker.

Young men from the community keep vigil all night, taking turns to staying awake. Residents said the strategies have been helpful in staving off arrests, although not all neighbourhoods have been able to organise in this way.

Young men from the community keep vigil all night, taking turns to staying awake. Residents said the strategies have been helpful in staving off arrests, although not all neighbourhoods have been able to organise in this way.

Arif’s mother shows the damage to her house caused by the police raid. The Dars and other families wait for any news about their family members. Many young men who were arrested have been taken to jails hundreds of kilometres away from Kashmir.

Arif’s mother shows the damage to her house caused by the police raid. The Dars and other families wait for any news about their family members. Many young men who were arrested have been taken to jails hundreds of kilometres away from Kashmir.

Source: Aljazeera – Link https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/pictures-night-raids-arrests-kashmir-lockdown-190919153536231.html

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