A month after the government withdrew Article 370 and locked Kashmir down with thousands of additional troops and made mass arrests, residents are resisting attempts by authorities to show some signs of normalcy returning in the valley.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked special rights for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5, striking down the long-standing constitutional provisions for the Himalayan region.
To dampen the possibility of widespread protests, India flooded the state — already one of the world’s most militarised zones — with troops, imposed severe restrictions on movements, and cut all telephone, mobile phone and internet connections. Thousands of people were arrested.
The Centre has since eased some of the curbs, although no prominent detainees have been freed and mobile and internet connections remain suspended. Officials in Srinagar say that 90 per cent of the Kashmir valley is free of restrictions on daytime movement, some landline phone connections have been restored and thousands of schools have re-opened. However, checkpoints remain in place and communication restrictions make reporting from the region difficult.
Despite the partial relaxation, many students are boycotting classes, shopkeepers are not opening up and public and private sector employees are not turning up for work, in informal action aimed at protesting against the government, according to interviews with seven government officials and dozens of residents of the valley.
“For us, our identity at stake and its safeguarding is our priority,” said Shabir Ahmad, a shopkeeper from the old quarter of Srinagar.
“Let them restore it and we will re-start our businesses.”