In the weeks since Kashmir’s lockdown, hundreds of elected politicians, activists and trade unionists have been imprisoned or put under “house arrest”. Thousands of young men – including minors – have been arrested in night raids by the police, with many transported to jails outside the state.
Despite criticism from the human rights organisations, India says its actions are legal under the strict emergency laws in place in Kashmir since an armed rebellion began there in 1989.
Since the night raids and arrests began, a few neighbourhoods in downtown Srinagar have mobilised to protect themselves. Residents have erected barricades using leftover construction material, corrugated sheets, wheel barrows and any other objects they could find lying around. They dug trenches into the roads to stop police jeeps from entering. And warnings about possible raids are broadcast over the local mosque’s loudspeaker.
Young men from the community keep vigil all night, taking turns to staying awake. Residents said the strategies have been helpful in staving off arrests, although not all neighbourhoods have been able to organise in this way.
Many young men who were arrested have been taken to jails hundreds of kilometres away from Kashmir.