August 14, 2019
My car moved within a column of Indian army vehicles and a cloud of dust. On a normal day, it would have been a smooth journey from the airport in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, to my family home in the northern town of Baramulla.
But life is very different in the Kashmir Valley these days. The part that India controls is now under an unprecedented security crackdown to prevent an uprising after the central government in New Delhi unexpectedly stripped the region’s special constitutional status, the last vestige of real autonomy for the predominantly Muslim region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan.
Hundreds of Indian soldiers, armed with automatic rifles, patrol the Srinagar-Baramulla highway, a 35-mile (56-kilometer) -long road that connects the region’s main city with its northern towns. Civilian traffic is sporadic. Shops are shuttered. Army trucks gather speed along the road. And spools of concertina wire block the streets that branch off the highway, forcing residents to remain indoors.
The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir is under lockdown.
Authorities in Baramulla carried out a spree of arrests, including political activists, former protesters and some stone-throwers. But they also arrested intellectuals and lawyers, according to several families I spoke to who described midnight raids. Because of the communication embargo, my calls from Delhi seeking comment from authorities didn’t go through.