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Kashmir on edge under lockdown

Kashmir on edge under lockdown
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during curfew in Srinagar Thursday. (AP)
SRINAGAR, AUG 8 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 8/8/2019 12:22:26 PM IST

Tens of thousands of government forces in riot gear patrol Kashmir. Streets lined with shuttered shops are deserted, steel barricades and razor wire cutting off neighborhoods. An eerie silence is broken by an occasional security vehicle whizzing past or the cawing of crows, reports AP.

An unprecedented security lockdown amid a near-total communications blackout entered a fourth day Thursday, forcing some news organizations to hand-carry dispatches out of the region.

The lives of millions in the region have been upended since the latest — and most serious — crackdown followed a decision by New Delhi to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgrade the Himalayan region from statehood to a territory.

In central Srinagar, the region’s main city, few pedestrians ventured out of their homes to navigate barbed-wire checkpoints guarded by helmeted soldiers in camouflage, wielding rifles and protective shields.

Shopping malls, grocery stores and even clinics were closed. In previous security clampdowns, neighborhood bodegas had opened their doors for a few hours a day after dark so that people could buy basic necessities like milk, grains and baby food. It is not clear whether the stores have opened in the current crackdown. Residents are used to stockpiling essentials, a practice they’ve honed during harsh winter months when roads and communications lines are often snapped.

The communication blackout — with landlines, cellphones and internet all down — means that people within Kashmir can’t call one another or speak to friends and relatives outside the region, relying only on limited cable TV and local radio reports. No news was coming out from elsewhere in the tense region.

At the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar, doctors told The Associated Press on Thursday that at least 50 people had come in with wounds from pellet guns and rubber bullets, the ammunition security forces often use to disperse protests.

 

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