The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

(Kiana) #1



srinagar, india — Ever since
India announced a move to strip
Kashmir of its autonomy one
week ago, residents of this dis-
puted region have been unable
to make phone calls, access the
Internet or move freely.
They also have heard nothing
from local political leaders, be-
cause many of them have been
detained and held incommuni-
cado, part of an unprecedented
clampdown that has muffled the
public response to India’s deci-
On Monday, the major Mus-
lim holiday Eid al-Adha was a
tense and muted affair instead
of a joyous occasion as security
forces flooded the streets of
Srinagar, the Kashmiri capital.
The festival passed without the
violent protests that some had
The region has remained on
edge since Prime Minister Nar-
endra Modi revoked autonomy
for Indian-controlled Kashmir,
fulfilling a major campaign
pledge of his Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party but rais-
ing the likelihood of unrest in
India’s only Muslim-majority re-
To maintain control, India
has sent thousands of additional
troops to Kashmir and detained
hundreds of local politicians
and party workers. They include
two of the highest-profile lead-
ers in the state: Mehbooba Muf-
ti, who until last year was the
chief minister of Jammu and
Kashmir, and Omar Abdullah,
one of her predecessors in that
“I’ve no idea what is in store
for our state, but it doesn’t look
good,” Abdullah wrote to his
3 million Twitter followers in
the wee hours of Aug. 5. He has
not been heard from since.
Kashmir is home to a long-
running insurgency against In-
dian rule waged by militant
groups seeking independence or
merger with Pakistan. But the
politicians who have been de-
tained since Aug. 5 are not
militants or separatists but
mainstream leaders who advo-
cate for Kashmir’s future inside
India with a degree of autono-
A hotel and conference hall
on the shores of Srinagar’s Dal
Lake has been converted into an
improvised detention center.
On a recent afternoon, the
metal entrance gates were
draped in black plastic to ob-
scure the view. Nuzhat Ishfaq,
34, went to find her husband
and father, both members of the
Jammu and Kashmir National
Conference party. Her husband
was a member of the state
legislature from the district of
She said her husband was put
under house arrest on Aug. 5.
Two days later, the police ar-
rived at their home and told him
to pack some clothes. Since
then, the family had not gotten
word from him. The guards
allowed her and her two sons, 12
and 14, inside the center for 45
She said she was taken into a
conference hall and glimpsed
her husband from a distance,
but officials did not permit her
to speak to him.
“There is a volcano waiting to
erupt,” she said. “Earlier mili-
tants or separatists were picked
up, but now India has taken
away those who were pro-India.”
She continued: “This is injus-
tice. We are not militants. What
is our crime?”
Adnan Ashraf Mir, a spokes-
man for the Jammu and Kash-
mir People’s Conference, said
that its leader, Sajjad Lone, was
placed under house arrest on
Aug. 4. The following day, Lone
was transferred to the makeshift
detention center on Dal Lake
and has been held incommuni-
cado since.
The party’s entire top leader-
ship is detained or under house
arrest, Mir said, and he estimat-
ed that more than 200 party
workers across the state were
also in custody.
“It’s just appalling how they
have treated these people,” said
Mir, who left Srinagar several
days ago. The government is
“trying to silence every voice
they think would be able to
mobilize opinion on the
Outside a hillside home be-
longing to Mufti, the former
chief minister, security person-
nel declined to answer ques-
tions about her detention. They
also refused to allow The Wash-
ington Post to meet with her
daughter, Iltija Iqbal. In previ-
ous interviews, Iqbal said that
her mother was detained Aug. 5
and that she had not been able

to communicate with her since.
A spokeswoman for India’s
Home Ministry did not reply to
requests for comment on the
detentions or the whereabouts
of Mufti and Abdullah. A senior

government official, speaking
on the condition of anonymity
to discuss matters with report-
ers, twice declined to answer
queries about the detained poli-
The police are “effectively
maintaining peace and public
order, taking local decisions on
detentions,” the Jammu and
Kashmir government said in a
news release Monday. A senior
police official said that there
had been “minor localized inci-

dents” during Eid and that two
people were injured in the clash-
On Friday, police fired tear
gas and pellets at a crowd of
thousands of protesters, accord-
ing to a half-dozen eyewitnesses
and interviews with the injured
at a hospital. The government
has denied that any such inci-
dents took place.
Government officials de-
clined to say when the restric-
tions on communication and

movement would be lifted, re-
peatedly stating that the situa-
tion was fluid.
Fizalah Kawoosa, a 32-year-
old immunologist in Srinagar,
said that recent events had left
her “blood boiling.” She had
not been able to reach her
mother, who lives in the same
city, and three attempts to visit
had been thwarted at police
Kawoosa said she hopes and
prays that her infant daughter

will grow up in peace.
“There is no family in Kash-
mir that has not lost a relative to
violence,” she said. “I wanted to
see a calm future for our chil-
dren. But it is only going to be

Slater reported from New Delhi.
Ishfaq Naseem in Srinagar and
Tania Dutta in New Delhi
contributed to this report.

Political leaders are detained amid unprecedented crackdown in Kashmir

India silences opposition
after decision to strip
region’s autonomy

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