SRINAGAR: Ali Mohammad Rah sat on the pavement outside a police station in Srinagar on Tuesday, waiting to see his teenage sons, who were swept up in government raids overnight.

“Soldiers violently banged windows of our home while we were sleeping,” Rah said, adding his sons — aged 14 and 16 — were taken away before dawn in the Srinagar’s neighbourhood of Mehjoor Nagar.

“They just barged in and dragged my two sons away.” Government sources say at least 4,000 people have been detained in Occupied Kashmir since India revoked the restive Himalayan region’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed a massive security lockdown there.

Protests have broken out frequently, prompting raids by police and paramilitary forces.

In Nowshera, in an old quarter of the main city of the region, residents said several young men were taken away and detained by police on Sunday night.

Locals from other neighbourhoods reported similar raids.

Sitting outside the police station alongside Rah on Tuesday were dozens of other locals who said their relatives were also in custody — among them 21 boys from the most recent night raid.

They say soldiers used ladders to scale the walls of their compounds.

Widow Rozi, who only gave one name, said a gun was put to her head and she was told to “keep quiet” by soldiers as they led her 20-year-old son Suhail Mohiuddin, from the house.

Another woman, Mubeena, said a soldier “sprayed something on my face” when her brother was seized. “I fell down in pain and couldn’t see for a while. When I gathered myself my brother had already been taken away,” she said.

To try and stop the raids, residents in Srinagar’s Soura area have erected barricades and dug trenches in roads that lead to their cluster of homes.

Soura, home to about 15,000 people, is becoming the epicentre of resistance to Indian government plans to remove the partial autonomy that was once enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir.

In the neighbourhood, it is impossible to find anyone who supports the Indian government’s move. More than two dozen residents reporters talked to referred to the Indian prime minister as a tyrant. The constitutional changes made by India will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir and apply for jobs in local government. People in India-held Kashmir say they fear that India’s dominant Hindu population would overrun the lush state and the Kashmiris’ identity, culture and religion will be diluted and repressed.

“We feel like we are guarding the LoC here,” said Ejaz. The LoC refers to the Line of Control, the highly militarised de facto border between India-held Kashmir and Azad Kashmir.

Residents in Soura say that dozens of people have been injured in clashes with the paramilitary police over the past week.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019