Kashmir: Life Under Siege

India’s Jammu & Kashmir state was already the world’s most militarized zone, when, on August 5, 2019 the Indian Government stripped the state of its autonomy. Thousands of new troops moved in. There was a clampdown on free movement. A communications blockade was imposed.

In the place once famously described as “heaven on earth”, an overwhelming sense of despair and claustrophobia descended. It seemed to the people of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, that were being brought into line by the government of the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Across the border, Pakistan dialled up the rhetoric. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Prime Minister Imran Khan likened the persecution of people in Kashmir to that of Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

Stories on Kashmir often focus on men—the young revolutionaries, the insurgents, “the disappeared.” But this story focuses on women and children. It is the story of how those left behind cope and survive in an extreme situation to which there appears no end.

PHOTO: Indian paramilitary forces set up a barricade in Srinagar. Image by Abid Bhat. Kashmir, 2019.

Valley of Unrest

There are now nearly one million Indian troops stationed in Kashmir—more than at the height of the insurgency in the Nineties. The Muslim-majority region and its residents face a rising tide of Hindu nationalism.