Srinagar a maze of razor wire, steel barriers


ISLAMABAD: Indian Occupied Kashmir’s capital Srinagar has turned into a vast maze of razor wire coils and steel barricades as drones and helicopters hover overhead, said prominent international news organization, Associated Press (AP) in a report.

The report said wearing flak jackets and riot gear, Indian paramilitary soldiers carry automatic rifles and shotguns to control the network of checkpoints and barricades across roads, lanes and intersections in Srinagar, Kashmir Media Service reported.

The report maintains that although the 4 million residents of the Kashmir Valley are used to blockades, the one imposed after the Indian government’s surprise move earlier this month to strip the territory of constitutional privileges was something residents said they’ve never seen before.

Amid the labyrinth whose entry and exit points are changed frequently, people find themselves disoriented in their own city, and struggle to memorize its frequently changing street map.

“This is so vast, so expansive,” resident Zameer Ahmed said. “The entire Srinagar city has been knitted in razor wire to seek our silence and obedience.”

The lock down in the Muslim-majority valley has been in place since August 05 when New Delhi repealed the special status of the occupied territory. Even before India’s Parliament voted August 05 to strip occupied Kashmir of its special status and split it into two union territories, the Indian government imposed a curfew, suspended telephone and internet services and deployed tens of thousands of additional soldiers to the region – already one of the world’s most militarized zones.

At checkpoints throughout Srinagar, police gave directions to a labyrinth whose entry and exit points are changed several times a day. Razor wire divides neighborhoods, discouraging people from assembling. Some roads are blocked by perpendicularly parked armored vehicles or private buses. Because of the complexity of the Indian forces’ one-way system, it is impossible to use the same route and return home from any particular destination, even if it is within sight.

“They’ve changed the road map of our city, trying to make us like strangers in our own neighborhoods,” said Bashir Ahmed, a resident of downtown Srinagar.

“This is a drill about disciplining and regulating people’s movement. This is to psychologically break people and teach them that they’re not in control of their own bodies,” said Saiba Varma of the University of California, San Diego, who is in Srinagar for post-doctoral research in medical anthropology.

The AP report says that the authorities have refused to share any details about the checkpoints or new methods used for the latest blockade.

It says government officials maintain that the situation is returning to normal and that no one has died or been seriously injured in any of the sporadic protests that have broken out since the blockade began. Because of constraints on movement and communication, it was not possible to verify their claims, it adds.