Soura
File photo | Protests in Soura, Downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir against scrapping of Article 370 by Modi govt | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Soura: An upscale and largely peaceful residential neighbourhood in Srinagar called Soura that featured in the controversial BBC video has now become the unlikely epicentre of protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s abrogation of Article 370.

This is no Lal Chowk. In fact, people in Soura have traditionally supported pro-India politicians. Kashmir’s biggest medical college and hospital are located in Soura, making it one of the busiest zones in the capital.

The neighborhood began to change in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in 2016. But now in the wake of the Article 370 decision, Soura has become a hotspot for unrest. Slogans heard during the days of the insurgency three decades ago are resurfacing, and calls to fight back are echoing loud and clear.

The abrogation of Article 370 might just be the final nail in the coffin for Soura, which so far served as a fragile middle ground.

“To protect Kashmir, we can and we will pay with our lives,” a protester named Shabir Dar told ThePrint. “If the Modi government thinks they can get away by taking away what is dear to us, our identity, then we are ready to extinguish our entire existence while fighting.”

He added that the seed for the “movement” had been sown in Soura. “With time, you will see it spread everywhere,” he said.

Slogans heard during insurgency are resurfacing again in Soura | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint

‘We can & will pay with our lives’

When Wani, the social-media-savvy militant known to have given the Kashmir militancy a modern face, was killed in a gunbattle with security forces in south Kashmir on 8 July 2016, Soura erupted in violent clashes.

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When Burhan Wani was killed, Soura erupted in violent clashes | Azaan Javaid | ThePrint

Ever since, the region has only shown an increasing affinity towards the separatist sentiment, its low voting percentage indicative of the diminishing space for mainstream politicians. Even today, the Anchaar locality in Soura is plastered with posters of Wani, posing with an AK-47.

Soura became the face of Kashmir’s anger over the abrogation of Article 370 last week after the British media house BBC beamed viral footage of dozens of Kashmiris out on the roads, protesting, amid purported sounds of gunfire in the background.

According to BBC journalist Nicola Careem, the video was shot after prayers on the first Friday following the decision.

The government, however, denied there’d been any protests involving more than 20 people, with J&K Police saying Saturday that no firing incident had taken place in Kashmir in six days.

The truth is that people in Soura have protested. The residents of this area managed to defy the restrictions in place because large pockets in the interiors are not deployed with soldiers, owing to the risk it might pose.

Everywhere else, including the volatile downtown, the security presence and restrictions have been successful in keeping people inside their homes.

During early periods of unrest Soura remained largely quiet. Its proximity to the 90 Feet Road, which links Srinagar to Ganderbal, has sent Soura’s land prices soaring in the past decade. It is also known as the gateway to Ladakh. During the winter, Soura is always the top priority for the government to clear the snow because of the hospital.

But today Soura, which has had large pockets of support for Valley-based mainstream political parties, particularly the National Conference, is changing rapidly.


Also read: Even if J&K crackdown makes liberals cringe, we must support govt fight against insurgency


‘Reliving’ Palestine

Comparisons with Palestine, the West Asian territory where Arabs were driven out of their homes as Europe’s persecuted Jews sought to reclaim their “ancient homeland”, are fuelling passions further.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of locals gathered at the Jenab Sahib mosque in Soura and raised pro-freedom and anti-India slogans. Women from all walks of life gathered in front of the mosque and took out a march. “We want freedom” was among the many slogans they raised.

Protests in Soura, Downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir on 11th August, 2019 | Photo: Praveen Jain
Protests in Soura on Sunday | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“People here know politics (siyasat) too well to not know what is happening,” said college student Rifat Amin. “Have we not seen settler colonies in Palestine? Haven’t their lands been stolen and homes bulldozed? If they want to make Kashmir a second Palestine, then let them do what they want. We will do what we have to.”

The sentiment is shared by not only an overwhelming number of people in Soura but also in major parts of Srinagar. Not only has the abrogation and subsequent clampdown made people feel completely cornered, they also sense a stifling of their religious rights.

“If the restrictions that have been imposed so far stay as they are on Eid… If we are not able to properly celebrate this holy day, consider that this will be taken as an assault on our religion too,” protester Sultan Mohammad told ThePrint a day before Eid.

As it turned out, Eid was observed in Kashmir amid strict curbs despite Prime Minister Modi’s assurance of a “smooth Eid”.

On Sunday evening, a day before Eid, police drove around, asking people to go indoors. In the morning, people were stopped from praying at major mosques. In Soura, the night before Eid, clashes ensued as police arrived for a raid.

Paramilitary officials posted in the area confirmed the clashes, but said it was a minor incident that ended within minutes.

When ThePrint arrived in Soura on Eid, people were enraged about what had happened Sunday night.

“They came in hurling abuses and banging on our doors. It must have been 11 pm, we decided to fight back,” said a youngster. “The clashes went on till 3.45 am.”

Iftikar Ahmed, a local shopkeeper in his 50s, said: “We were awake the whole night. Perhaps police wanted to arrest some of us, but we made sure no one has to spend Eid locked in a prison.”

At a distance, this reporter heard young men raise a slogan popularised in the early 1990s that marked the start of the Kashmir insurgency — “There is only one solution, Gun Solution Gun Solution.”

Ahmed sighed. “They are pushing them against the wall,” he said, as the slogans grew louder.


Also read: From AFSPA to street protests, Modi govt needs new thinking in J&K with Article 370 gone


 

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25 Comments Share Your Views

25 COMMENTS

  1. What do we Kashmiris want?
    Azadi? From whom? From India? From Pakistan? From whom do we want Azadi?
    Were we not Azad in 1947 when the Maharaja decided not to join either Pakistan or India? did the Maharaja not sign a standstill agreement with Pakistan? He did not sign such an agreement with India.
    What happened then? Pakistan chose to disrespect the Standstill agreement and attacked using the Kabailis. India did not attack us. The Indian Army stepped in only when the Maharaja asked India to do so and that too after signing the Instrument of Accession.
    It is crystal clear that Pakistan never had any intention to allow Jammu & Kashmir to be a Independent state.
    So when we raise slogans of Azadi now, can we hope to remain Independent? I think we need to get out of this delusion.
    I see a lot of fellow Kashmiris lamenting the fact that there is so much Army in Kashmir. We need to see the correct picture quickly. Pakistan is a country ruled by its Army. In India, the Army does not rule the country. It does what the civilian government tells it to do. Are we Kashmiris trying to go under the yoke of the Pakistani Army? The same one who killed residents of East Bangladesh by the millions? The same one who continues to kill the Baloch and the Pashtuns with impunity?
    Why do we Kashmiris have such love for Pakistan? Because its a Muslim country? By that yardstick, the Bangladeshis should never have felt the need to break away from Pakistan, but they did.
    Why did that happen? It happened because the culture, the language, the food habits etc ect of the people of present day Bangladesh were different from the West Pakistanis.
    Are we, the Kashmiris in a situation any different from the Bengalis? What is the guarantee that the same things, the same brutality will not happen to us?
    After all, all those people who left everything back in India and migrated to the “Pak”country, Pakistan, came to be labelled as “Mohajirs”! What will stop us from meeting the same fate?
    I think we need to introspect as to why the second largest population of Muslims in the world, continues to stay in India. If they were suffering, feeling persecuted, will they not opt for going over to Pakistan? The country created as a Haven for the Muslims of the sub continent!
    If they are not, is there a lesson for us Kashmiris in that?
    The earlier we realise that we are better off, much better off as Indians, the better!!!

  2. It’s matter of generation or two. It will be normal in time to come. Future generation will have a mind of nonviolence.

  3. If this matter is not sort out it will turn into full fledged war between India and Pakistan that will destroy not only India and Pakistan but other countries as well.

  4. Why don’t interview Ladakh and Jammu.
    If you are interested in journalism why don’t you compare people sentiment on ground in kashmir before and after 370 issues

  5. BJP abrogated actricle 370 the way it did demonization… if demonization was successful then this move will also be successful. rest you all know… BJP brought back 1989 in 2019..

  6. The print seems to publish only news supportive of Pak like BBC,alzazeera etc. All are propak supportive news.can you publish antipak or anti China news in your edition?,if you are publishing from those countries?just think what happened to wion journalist a pack origin man&his cameraman when they reported the jihadi &terror camps &msdrassas run inpok &near locs ?they we’re severely beaten by pak military &lsl .ls it happens to any foreign scribes or lndian scribes who critisise &do anti national work against their own country.there may be some incidences due to personal vengeance.but what about neutral journalists inpak who were murdered by Pak military.ls kashmiri will be safe in pak? they are only scapegoats to fight as terrorist.

  7. It shows that you are an anti Indian and staunch supporter of Pakistan …nevertheless what ever you write against …this government has the will and people’s support for making Kashmir a better place n stop being a traitor

  8. Just replace the sentiments with what Pandits feel and felt when the same people expressing these sentiments connived with Pakistan foreigners to kill and cleanse their own brethren Pandits. The people expressing such sentiments have not been cleansed like Pandits. Neither Hindus nor Muslims in India (and India has more Muslims and Han Pak) are interested in any property in Kashmir since it’s not a peaceful paradise. Pak has no businessmen to invest in their own country. Whereas Indian business can help J&K prosper with facilities for Agro Processing and Tourism. World leading businesses too will tie up with Indian businesses. New J&K businessmen will sprout. How can you ever be a Switzerland either on your own with Pakistan? Have they done anything worthwhile in Pak Occupied Kashmir although India never fomented trouble and militancy there?

  9. With 370 gone for common man KPs and Muslims nothing will change of course we will have to pay service tax on telephone bills now ,as per tekehedars of Kashmir for them it’s a nightmare they have lost everything only history will judge if at all it was worth it ,but Kashmires bought it upon themselves ,we could not take advantage of our unique situation we could have been a bridge between India and Pakistan but our thekedars didn’t understand the aspirations of common man these people wanted to be Maharaja Hari Singh except for Mr.Sadiq he was a true nationalist.

  10. It is really strange that even Muslim journalists play their religion card conveniently, and complain that the country is polarised. Of course, it is polarised due to people like this author. Please get that you are not living in a Muslim country, and you are only an equal citizen like a Hindu or a Christian in a secular country.

  11. Actually, The Print’s owner is a puppet of anti BJP forces. He is indebted with various favours and in return he has to lick their asses through anti government narratives.

  12. If they are protesting peacefully then its fine, it is their democratic right to build public opinion and change minds. But for those who want to pick up guns or stones, they should know that they are not the only ones with hands. There are limits to the patience of rest of the country being blackmailed by threats of violence, remember angry young men exist outside Kashmir too.

  13. This post is an extension of Pakistan’s propaganda. If ThePrint has decided to sing Pakistani songs, it will be no different from other anti-India media based on Indian soil.

  14. In this “upscale” “educated” neighborhood, they cannot print a banner “Save ARTICLE 35 A”.
    Instead it reads “ARTICAL 35 A SAVE”😀.

  15. Anything not upto the government’s liking will be hushed. This govt lies and manipulates facts to take the Indian people for a ride. God help us.

  16. Frankly I feel the common Kashmiri is very peaceful. The problem is that they want to maintain a separate identity, what they call “Kashmiriyat” while still being under the control of India. They don’t understand this: Once the British left, it was supposed to be two countries i.e. India and Pakistan. It’s up to the other states, kingdoms to choose where they wanted to. Kashmir delayed, in fact it wanted to remain independent. But it didn’t have the military capability to secure itself. India waited patiently, but Pakistan couldn’t. It attacked and tried to capture Kashmir. They’d have succeeded had the winter had fallen. Even after the attack India didn’t send its troops until the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession. Would it have been better that the intruders from Pakistan captured the whole of Kashmir, looted it, killed them men, raped the women? Now they wrongly think article 370, 35A gave them full autonomy. They had that for the last 70 years. But to what avail? No development; only terror attacks; the common people only suffered. It’s only the so-called leaders who reaped the undue advantage. As the final responsibility falls on India, it had to take a decision, how hard it may be.

  17. The author of this biased article, Azaan Javaid is a muslim. He’s throwing a pity party. Playing the victim card, when the situation arises is a well-known muslim tactic. Comparing Kashmir with Palestine is ridiculous attempt to play victims. Kashmiri muslims were enjoying special privileges over that of ordinary Indian citizens. Kashmiris can buy land outside of their state anywhere in India and start a business, while other Indians were prohibited from doing so. It became a horrible incest-like situation, where they destroyed their own economy with corruption, backward islamic ideology and fanaticism. They have became secluded and ignorant like frogs in a well, shut off from all developmental efforts and flow of knowledge. Now, the playing field is leveled. They need to pull their self-pitying-asses and try to work hard and compete with the rest of the Indians. No more islamic supremacy! No more special privileges! No more lame excuses!

  18. Please remove any doubt that 370 was removed for any development, there was only one way in kashmir to win and that was the ISRAELI way. There are almost 2000 jihadi mosques operating in Kashmir who are in continuous contact with ISI and Jaish. There is no stopping there, these jihadis have gone under military training and have to be killed by brute force. Remember, there are Pro Indian Kashmiris too, who are working in govt or J&K police now they will be targeted. North Kashmir is almost out of Millitancy, Jaish will try to blow out some mosques out there. However i think the fight is between India and PAK in Afghanistan and PoK. Afghanistan is where India can play its cards very well, latest calculus looks like Russians have more say in Taliban than ISI- which is honestly surprising. If Taliban are true to become Afghan nationalists and living their identity as powerful AFGHANs rather than just ISI proxy than there is lot to maneuver here(money plays a lot of role). Indian forces need to have capabilities with extra technological edge to capture PoK within hours and gain air superiority in PoK within Minutes(S400 will play a major role, its an offensive weapon too).

      • Either you have difficulty comprehending or your hatred is blinding you, I favor the later.

        He wrote “S400 will”. In the future.

        About Balakot, if we didn’t have photos and video Paki army would claim they never surrendered in 1971😀. Even Paki army admits Indian Air Force flew into KP ( not PoK), and bombed. Lying through the teeth about number of casualties and the downing of F16. The F16 issue is suppressed by USA since their new technology is shot down by an old Russian plane. The US published lot of fake news suppressing facts to avoid loss of business and face.

      • What retaliation? They dumped their load away from military installation and took tail. They lost a F-16 and its pilot for a Mig 21. India can suffer such silly retaliations all day long.

  19. 1.Nothing unanticipated. Look at the changed frames of reference. 2. In the new Union Territory, security apparatus will be firmly in central control. The goal is to control large scale physical violence. 3. Democratic expression is welcome. 4. There is zero interest in the global community for the so called azadi. Any illusions on this have been clarified the reaction of the world powers and more importantly Saudi Arabia and GCC. 5. Let us focus on peace and stability and economic opportunities.

    • This is an emotional problem. Logic doesn’t work much. Moreover it is a menage a troi. So it gets even more irrational.

      The problem of Ireland continued for about 800 years. The Kashmir problem will go on for how long, no one knows.

      But for a civilization that claims to be 5K years old, what are a few hundred years?

      The tragi-farce will unfortunately continue. Probably it suits all three parties to play the blame game.

      And now wait for your enemies the R-gang!

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