Protests have not let up since August 5, when India stripped Kashmir's nominal autonomy, a senior government source said.

Kashmiri girls shout slogans as they attend a protest following Friday prayers after the Indian government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, in Srinagar, August 23, 2019.
Kashmiri girls shout slogans as they attend a protest following Friday prayers after the Indian government scrapped the special constitutional status for Kashmir, in Srinagar, August 23, 2019. (Reuters)

At least 500 incidents of protest have broken out in India-administered Kashmir since New Delhi stripped the region of its nominal autonomy and imposed a military clampdown more than three weeks ago, a senior government source told AFP on Wednesday. 

Nearly 100 civilians have been wounded so far, with a further 300 police and more than 100 paramilitary troopers hurt, the official added.

"The number of protests could be much higher and bigger without the blockade in force," the official told AFP, adding that "anger and public defiance is constantly rising."

"Efforts for easing the conditions are made all the time but nothing seems to be working for now. There is nervousness spreading in the security establishment."

He added that the communications blackout meant even security forces were struggling to obtain information about rural areas.

Over-militarised

The Himalayan valley is under a strict lockdown, imposed hours before India's decision to bring disputed Kashmir under its direct rule. Movement is restricted and phone and internet services have been cut.

The lockdown, as well as the deployment of tens of thousands of extra troops to reinforce the 500,000 already based in Kashmir, was ordered amid fears of unrest in a region where an armed rebellion against Indian rule has been waged since 1989.

But protests have broken out, including in the main city of Srinagar, with police using pellet guns and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The government source said at least 500 protests occurred since August 5, with more than half taking place in Srinagar.

Residents defiant 

Residents are refusing to resume their normal lives in an act of defiance, an AFP reporter in Srinagar said.

While authorities have reopened schools, students have stayed away. Told to keep open all day or "don't open at all," some shops have remained shut.

At least 4,000 people have been detained across the valley, security and government sources told AFP last week, including businessmen, academics, activists and local politicians, with a few released since then.

A separate senior government official told AFP on Wednesday that at least 1,350 protesters –– described by police as "stone-pelters" –– have been arrested since August 5.

India’s top court to examine Kashmir’s status

India’s top court on Wednesday took up legal challenges to the government’s decision to revoke Indian-controlled Kashmir’s special status and asked the government to explain its stance to the court.

The Supreme Court ordered the federal government to file its replies to 14 petitions and inform the court about the media restrictions imposed in Kashmir. 

It said five judges will start a regular hearing on the matter in October.

Kashmir police dispirited, disarmed

Some 30 Kashmiri police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing retribution from their superiors told The Associated Press that they have been sidelined and, in some cases, disarmed by New Delhi-based authorities since the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi downgraded the disputed region into two federally administered territories, tightening its grip.

The state police force was shocked by the sudden presidential order earlier this month that stripped Kashmir’s constitutional autonomy, leading officers to feel spiritless, caught between the federal security forces they now report to and the friends and neighbours who question their loyalties like never before.

"At the end of the day, we neither belong to our own nor are we trusted by higher authorities," said one officer.

Many of the policemen said their department-issued firearms were taken away from them days before Modi's government’s order was presented in Parliament because authorities feared they could rebel.

At least three fights have broken out between state police and Indian soldiers since Kashmir's status was changed, leading to injuries on both sides, two police officers said.

In contrast to the Indian paramilitary soldiers manning a maze of checkpoints armed with assault rifles, shotguns, tear gas canisters and two-way radios, Kashmir police are only carrying batons.

"It has been a leisurely job these days," said one officer perusing a newspaper at a checkpoint.

"We've become like clerks and helpers in the field for soldiers. Why should we carry weapons? After all, we too are part of this besieged society," he said.

As fresh troops arrived in Srinagar the night before Kashmir's special status was revoked, the region's largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, called on Kashmiri police to rise up against New Delhi.

"Those Kashmiris who work in the police have a chance to redeem themselves," top rebel commander Reyaz Naikoo said in an audio statement that was widely shared on social media, claiming to have already contacted some officers.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies