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I went to meet pellet gun victims in Soura, the new epicentre of Kashmir’s anger

CRPF troops said they couldn’t be bothered to go into Anchar in Soura because it was too unimportant. Others worried about collateral damage.

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Anchar in Srinagar’s Soura locality is being held up by certain sections of the press as some kind of heroic last resistance to the Indian State. Others see it as a Jihadi hive, the new epicentre of Kashmir’s anger. Like all stories, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Many Indians first heard of or saw Soura in a viral BBC video after the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370. In the video, an upscale Srinagar neighbourhood is seen breaking into protests. Reportedly, several Kashmiris were injured in the clashes.

So, I set out on a fact-finding trip last week to see the pellet gun victims for myself. My first stop in Srinagar had to be Anchar – a sub-locality of Soura. But we have to first understand the place.

Entrance to Anchar, Soura | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

Understanding the bastion

The main clan in Anchar is the Tiploo. They are married into almost every family there and control the “sentiment” of the area. For a long time, their livelihoods depended on the nearby Anchar lake where they harvested lotus stems and fished. Others sold goods at the Jenab Sahib mosque, where relics of Prophet Mohammad’s four companions are kept.

Soura used to be a National Conference bastion, fiercely loyal to Sheikh Abdullah with a reputation of being his “shock troops”.

In the late 1980s, the destruction of the Anchar ecosystem began with the rapid drying up of the lake (it is now one-third of what it was in 1971). By 1990, the colony had decisively turned towards the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). The Tiploos felt that they weren’t adequately rewarded for their loyalty to the Abdullahs. This was compounded by the jealousy of Anchar residents towards Soura for transforming from an agricultural backwater to the new downtown, as population pressure forced the downtown elites to move out. One road (the 90-foot road) in Soura, for example, now houses some of the poshest properties in Srinagar.

Soura | ThePrint

Also read: Why some in Western media call this Srinagar neighbourhood Kashmir’s ‘Gaza’

Up the garden path

Arriving at Anchar, I was amazed by the nonchalance of security forces dispersed across the locality. They were relaxed and there were no checks. People moved freely in and out.

When I walked up to the barricade of the “liberated zone”, I encountered a group of three feisty women coming out. They were not wearing a burkha and were happy to talk to a stranger. When we started talking, some men joined in. They claimed that security forces had tried to enter Anchar two days prior, resulting in stone-pelting and pellet gunfire. First, they said the number of people hit by pellet guns were 40, but it rapidly increased to 200.

Despite the warnings of my driver to stay away (“Sir they beat up a TV crew here last week”), I decided to approach the “gatekeeper”, who controlled entry through the stockade. I insisted that I wanted to see the victims of pellet guns and assess their wounds. The gatekeeper told a little child to “shut the shops”. (I don’t speak Kashmiri, but my driver quietly translated in my ear. He was too scared to come in).

As we walked up to the Jenab Sahib grounds, he suddenly told me: “If you want to see fresh pellet victims, you’ll have to go to Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS).” I terminated the tour abruptly, much to the annoyance of my host, after all, I was there to look at verifiable injuries, not listen to narratives. I headed out to SKIMS, possibly Srinagar’s largest and best-equipped hospital. It was jam-packed, but I found just one pellet victim there – a 12-year-old boy who suffered superficial wounds to the back of his head and was being released that day. I was restricted from entering his room, but I had the freedom to walk around the other wards, none of which had pellet gun victims.

SKIMS hospital, Anchar, Soura | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Disappointed, I walked out and started talking to a visibly distraught local, whose father-in-law asked me not to disturb her. He told me that they were from Nubra, and had come to Srinagar for treatment after his son had a stroke. He told me he had received “first-class” treatment and experienced no shortages. But the crowd (and a crowd gathers almost immediately everywhere you try to interview someone) pushed him aside and insisted that there were severe shortages.

I decided to walk with a man, he had a prescription with him, to a nearby pharmacy just 20 metres away. Every single drug on the prescription was available. (The medical supervisor I had interviewed before had told me as much, having dealt with long shutdowns in 2010, 2014 and 2016. The hospitals, it seems, have developed a very good stocking and distribution mechanism).

Entry to Anchar, Soura | Abhijit Iyer-Mitra | ThePrint

Also read: Medical report says Kashmir teen, a topper and Kohli fan, died of shell and pellet injuries

Searching for victims

I went back to the gatekeeper in Anchar and complained that he had led me up the garden path. Profusely apologetic, he told me that the victims have been taken to Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, a full eight kilometres away. I was immediately suspicious as to why someone would be taken that far away, when Anchar is closer to SKIMS. But the intent here was never to challenge, only to verify, so off I went.

Again, there was no police presence and I was free to roam the wards. Doctors are barred from talking publicly, but one doctor led me to his room. He confirmed that there were no medicine shortages and that there were three people with pellet injuries, one of whom I was allowed to see but not photograph. None were from Anchar/Soura.

A woman, who was a relative of one of the pellet victims, turned up to get a signature from my doctor. A quick rapid unintelligible chat later they giggled and she left. When I played the recording to my driver and three others much later, they all confirmed that the doctor challenged her, asking incredulously, “Sure he was one of those innocent boys who headed out shopping right?”. This was followed by giggles.

Women protest in Soura, Downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir on 11th August, 2019 | Photo: Praveen Jain
Women protest in Soura, Downtown Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir on 11th August, 2019 | Photo: Praveen Jain

Also read: Upscale Srinagar neighbourhood in viral BBC video is the new protest hub on Article 370

Exaggerated tales

Again, I headed back to Anchar. It was already three in the afternoon, verifying a single story. I was met by a different gatekeeper who told me: “We don’t send our victims to the hospital, we get doctors over at home to avoid prosecution”.

Exasperated, I again asked to meet some of them and he took me to see some victims whose wounds were clearly quite old, possibly months. My insistence that I be shown recent victims was met by “well, we don’t know who you are and we want to avoid an MLC (medical legal case)”.

On my way back, the women of Anchar told me their stories of victimhood. Unanswered during this entire day were several questions: If troops aren’t allowed into Anchar, how exactly did this pelting-pelleting (with 40-200 injuries) happen? Where are the victims?

Driving out, I decided to interview the CRPF troops on the main road. They told me that they’ve not been in Anchar and couldn’t be bothered to go in there because it was too unimportant for them. Higher-ups gave a different perspective, saying their main worry was the collateral damage, given that “these people are more than capable of setting fire to the Jenab Sahib mosque with disproportionate consequences for the Valley”.

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

Unseen till the end remained the mysterious pellet gun victims of the 12 September clashes. The Ancharese, however, are intensely likeable rebels, clearly prone to severe exaggeration, aimed at nurturing the “liberated zone resistance” myth. But boy do they know how to spin a yarn and market it.

In short, Anchar is definitely not a jihadi hive, but their “liberated zone” has less to do with their spirit and more to do with marketing and using Jenab Sahib Mosque as a hostage.

The author is a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. He tweets @iyervval. Views are personal.

This is the first part of a series by the author based on his recent Kashmir visit. Read the second part here

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  1. So according to this story written with a first hand account; things are well under control. But why do i get the feeling that the author is rather apologetic about the situation. This story should be promoted & shown to bbc, cnn, ndtv, to shekhar gupta himself, shiela rashid, gandis, yechuries, big bindas, your puki friends … i will try to share an old punjabi mohavra … ” bakri, tu doodh tow deti hai, lekin, meingno se bhara hua” Have a positive attitude towards good things happening. We can also see. But good news!

  2. Many here doubted the report by Mr Mitra. However they will believe what Sheila Rashid will say never ever going to Kashmir as if she is the Lady Allah. We the majority supported govt. decision. So we least bother what those anti Govt. Tukde Tukde gang say.

  3. Abhijit Aiyer deserves rich praise for his untiring efforts to get at the truth about the elusive 200 pellet gun victims, who ultimately proved to be the figment of imagination of the jihadi rumour factory.

    If the security forces “guarding” Anchar appeared bored and relaxed, it means Srinagar city has been drained of gun-toting jihadi warriors and has been taken over by the rumour mill workers.

  4. As i understand, people seem to be passive who are prone to believe hear says and rumors being spread mouth to mouth, in the absence of mobile communucation. So one thing is paying result that is starve them of rumors which is a major cause for communal disharmony. The author has put good effort to coroborate the statements made by commonners, who feed these unscrupulous politicians who make a mountain of a mole. Media is deliberately kept away, as they create false sensationalism for increasing their circulation.

  5. Some Kashmiri people with jihadi mindset, under the influence of neighbouring nation, have inbuilt LIERS atitude and speak so with no hesitation hundred times. But this has led the whole world not to believe them similar to our neighbouring nation who acted as fountainhead of terrorism. We do not wish to encourage such brains to change their thinking as this will bring reality into picture and expose these souls in whole world. They are the people who insulted Islam as they ate the subsidized food given by government of day and then insulted and defamed it in the eyes of world. Even The Prophet will not spare them for many generations to come.

    • atleast have the balls to read whole article! it is not anti india article idiot! it is saying that there are fake rumors of heavy casulties by pellet gun in kashmir idiots!

        • How is this the ‘true picture’? Based on what have you arrived at that this man is lying, vs multiple international media houses, fact-finding missions, several civil rights groups and even people FROM KASHMIR?

          • Your comment is awaiting moderation
            How is this the ‘true picture’? Based on what have you arrived at that this man is telling the truth, vs multiple international media houses, fact-finding missions, several civil rights groups and even people FROM KASHMIR?

        • How is this the ‘true picture’? Based on what have you arrived at that this man is telling the truth, vs multiple international media houses, fact-finding missions, several civil rights groups and even people FROM KASHMIR?

  6. Kashmir,gaza,yemen iraq,burma,syria,the middle east ,are all on fire just for power,what difference does it make who rules ,when we all dont have a say in politics.
    Muslim,hindu,sikh,christian,jew,budist and atheiest, we are all human beings with flesh and blood. This world ,civilisations came and gone the world is still there. Yesterdays powerfull kings today forgotten dead .why why do we have to fight.

    • For once The Print has put true face of lier Kashmiri people. As said, they are capable of inflicting wounds to themselves and also ask for compensation. Show this report to the UN and Imran Khan, who harps on Kashmir. In fact Kashmiri people are pampered lot and they are big cheaters. They rob us of our scare funds and play victimhood. These Kashmiris are using sentiments of so called liberals, spread rumours and like vultures feed themselves on our hard earn d and tax payers money.

    • alarakha, we all are human beings. But no tear was she’s when 7 lakh Hindu Pandits were driven out of their homes, killed,raped looted. All this was done in front of Kashmiri people who were Muslims and nobody came forward for their help. And now Kashmiris are crying if there is no internet. They can stay without internet for some more time. It is only proves that what you sow so shall you reap. Allah is the best judge.

  7. Government should lift the media blockade and let the journalists visit there. No need to believe a person who is batting for the gov. We want to hear both side situation, not you opinion mr.Mitra.

    • Be it media or individual, an opinion is an opinion. Media prints their opinion coloured by their allegence to pro or anti govt. Where as, an individual reporter tries to be a little more realistic and strives to do a little mire justice in the larger intrest.

    • “No need to believe a person who is batting for the gov”.
      Yes, the need is to believe the jihad supporting media.
      Because the purpose is to establish Nizam-e-Mustafa.

  8. This is an fabricated story without any truth. Fact is Kashmir js a jail for 9 million people. No communication road and mobile everything is snapped by jumla govt.

    • Enough freedom was given all these 60years. We have all witnessef how that freedom has been misused and abused there. If things need correction, there is always some disconfort as people’s mischievous intentions are being curbed. Vested intrest people cannot gather dust, vicious street fights and stone peltings cannot take place, people from accross the border cannot poison the lical minds to fight against india. All these are termed as infringement of personal rights. Whereas, all these amount to revolt against a state. Let us learn to see things in positive perspective and become more responsible and law abiding citizens. Enough is enough.

    • The stories of pellet gun injuries follow a pattern – the boys went out to play cricket and security forces fired pellets at them. Such stories need to be verified.

    • This is all bullshit if wat he says is true then let the media in and show the world but the world all ready nows the people of khasmer are living in hell thanks to modi and the army but remember this will not last forever and the day the band is lifted ther will be a war and the dirty Hindu cow piss drinkers will run like the bitchs yo are

  9. From above story , i am able to understand kashmiri near Srinagar are smart enough to make fool of people, believing on them will be difficult now, Slowly people will realise everything is fine there , by behaving this way they are playing in hand of Pakistan, then Govt of india will dealt strongly with them, I hope they will understand,

  10. When anyone try to throw stone on our army then those are victims of pallet , but kashmiri pandits never harm anyone and those are crushed,murdered,,raped and even after that that never try anything against anyone. ” Actually this is the time for justice to the most sufferers’.

  11. We do not know whether this is a true investigative story or a planted one. But it puzzles me, why mainstream media is kept away from J&K. Even after 50 days of lock up the place is separated from the mainstream.

  12. So..Mr mitra has walked the talk….
    please accept my appreciation on this endeavour…
    ..and ignore an earlier side comment on a previous article(on the physical aspect)..
    It was a case of wry humour…
    A good article..better all the it gives a sitrep from ground zero.

  13. While reading n understanding d 1st hand narrative of any local Kashmiri must identify n discount the LIE component from it before believing d same as true fact, because they are proven ‘audacious PERVERTERs of truth’. Abhilit has rightly exposed d falsely propagated narratives by d anti-India brigades both from within and outside India.

  14. I am very confused now. Don’t understand why doesnt the Indian government allow all media, foreign and local to go in and report? That should definitely put an end to all the lies being propagated by Pakistan! Instead we keep reading negative reports in the western press. Even if its supervised access like Pak gives to foreign media when it wants to push its narrative. Its really frustrating to say Pakistan is definitely spreading fake news better than India is showing the reality!

    • Truth is coming out slowly and lies of the bent press shall be in the public soon. Internet can’t be lifted yet due to dangerous elements waiting to send messages to jihadist elements for causing trouble. Be patient you will see Indian troops are human🔊🔊

  15. Asif Gilani….what is abomination is your reply and the horde of brainwashed muslims. Who believe that a lie told a 100 times becomes truth. Have u been in Kashmir since lockout? How can u comment either side of the story without being there or having concrete proof? What is a further abomination is that you who cry for muslims have acceptedctheircpathetic conditions in Kashmir, rest of India and muslim ruled countries without raising a question. 70 years of NC and other corrupt parties in Kashmir turned the region into abject poverty and slicing hell. The lot of muslims were kept poor by congress and other regimes for 70 years. Pakistanis, Afghan, Iranis, arabs have all been impoverished by their rulers in last 100 years while only the mullahs have become rich. Sheer hypocrisy when in reality u guys have allowed urself to be suckers in the name of Allah and mullah. Look inward, reform and u will not be victims.l anymore. U got stop playing victims if u dont want to be victims.

  16. Sir
    wd ref to ur reply.
    the problem everywhere is muslims.
    whether they are minority or majority.
    they will not allow another community to live peacefully.
    this is how well they structured genocide of hindu kasmiris.
    we hindu belueve in Karmas, so dont forget what you give, you get back.
    This is what you people hv given to our brother sisters to occupy this piece of land.
    but dont forget, you cant build a castel on somebodys grave.
    wait for more in return.

    The whole world 8s silent because they know muslim kashmiris are not innocent victim


  17. Thanks for the first hand reporting. There is so much exaggeration coming out of Pakistan that cutting through the noise had become hard. Naturally, BBC and other western news organizations wouldn’t report on this, because they want to report violence. Already, you can see the Pakistani tune changing with Imran Khan talking about what happens when the curfew is lifted. Well the curfew has also been largely lifted.

  18. This article is an abomination, it paints the situation in Kashmir as normal.
    This is the 51st day of lockdown.
    Children are being arrested in the dead without charge.
    There is no habeas corpus, the security forces are a law into themselves
    Let us not forget even before the August 50,000 Kashmiri had died in the conflict
    There are 500,000 troops in the valley itself.
    They are there not to keep the 200 odd militants out.
    These troops are there to keep the 8 million Kashmiri from rebelling for freedom
    This article paints a picture of sunshine. It is an obscene article
    The facts speak of an ugly and grim reality, it’s journalism that was found in Nazi Germany in the 1930s

    • There is no lockdown. The only people enforcing a lockdown are jehadis keeping people from opening shops or going to work. Pakistanis have deluded themselves with so many lies that they cant come to terms with why the world does not work like they think it should.

    • “Most of our cups are too filled with pride, conceit, and beliefs we cling to in order to give us a sense of identity and security”
      There is no harm in listening to a story that challenge our preconceived notions, if it’s hard for you to accept then we are sorry for you.

    • I have a heard a story in my childhood, i guess u also might have heard it. A sheppherd boy n tiger. He always pranks vilagers by shouting “a tiger has come”. Sick of his prank, villagers dont show up at all when a real tiger comes. Boy keeps shouting n no one turns up to help him. Now, do u see any resemblance with ur comment?

    • You Sir are apoplectic. Your game is half up. Soon, it will have gone all up. Give yourself time to expose yourself fully. Your ugly lie will come dangling out like a gross and disease afflicted penis.

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