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Posted at: Aug 25, 2019, 6:56 AM; last updated: Aug 25, 2019, 7:00 AM (IST)

Amid massive clampdown, uneasy calm in volatile south Kashmir

Amid massive clampdown, uneasy calm in volatile south Kashmir
A few vehicles ply on a road in Srinagar on Saturday. photo: Amin War

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Khrew (Pulwama), August 24

A narrow cart road crisscrossing through apple orchards look deserted. Inside the orchards sagging tree branches with ripe fruits await harvesting. For people safety comes first and harvesting can wait.

Welcome to south Kashmir, where even birds seem to think twice before venturing out. Even after restrictions have been eased, people prefer to stay indoors. Fear hangs heavy in air even though no deployment of force is visible on the roads.

This area has not witnessed many protests as 2016 when militant commander Burhan Wani was killed. The killing triggered a six-month-long unrest and left nearly 100 people dead.

Not only this area, but south Kashmir’s other districts- Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam has also largely been calm and seen less violence than 2016.

The tension is palpable.The locals in various villages in Khrew- 25 km from Srinagar- said forces had massively clamped down on and detained nearly two dozen locals, some of them under the Public Safety Act. “Soon after the scrapping of Article 370, forces have been raiding houses and detaining people,” said a parent whose son was detained by the police on August 11 from Samar Shah Colony in Khrew. “My son, 21, has been lodged at Central Jail in Srinagar.”

The youth was also arrested in the past on charges of stone pelting. In neighbouring Shar Shali village, forces detained Mukhtar Bhat. His family said he had never participated in any protest in the past.

“Mukhtar, 27, worked in Saudi Arabia for around six years and returned just months before and started a shop. First forces detained my brother Rafiq and later we handed over Mukhtar to forces,” his elder brother Shabir Bhat said.

The story from most of the villages is same in south Kashmir, where many people have been detained. Some of those detained have also been released.

The police said they had detained “troublemakers” who had in the past indulged in stone pelting or had the potential to hold protests.

According to sources, over 1500 people have been arrested in the past fortnight. Some of them have been shifted outside the state. Those arrested include two former chief ministers- Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

A group of residents in south Kashmir termed the massive clampdown and the complete communication blockade as a reason for relative calm.

“The large-scale arrests and raids have created a fear among people,” said a young man at Pampore. “Because of the communication blockade, we have no idea what is happening in other areas and districts. But the issue of removing the special status is in the hearts and minds which may explode anytime.”

J&K Government spokesman and Principal Secretary, Planning, Rohit Kansal claimed the process of arrests and releases was dynamic in nature and was done at the local levels.

He, however, did not say how many people had been arrested in the past fortnight.

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