Special Report: France 24's correspondent in Kashmir as tensions rise
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One week after new Indian restrictions in Kashmir heightened tensions in the region, FRANCE 24's Surabhi Tandon visited the city of Srinagar to gauge public reaction as Muslims celebrated the Eid-al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice.
Tandon reported that movement was severely restricted in the region, with locals under a curfew and no-go zones for journalists, whose movements were also tracked. Security measures seemed to be changing daily.
“Two days before Eid, for instance, which was on Saturday, they did ease up these restrictions, people were allowed more free movement in certain parts of the city,” she said.
Security forces were not the only hindrance to reporting: Kashmiri anger was also a factor, with many locals refusing to speak on camera and expressing concern that media reports had not reflected the reality on the ground.
Tandon added that Indian government claims that it had eased restrictions for Eid-al-Adha itself were inaccurate. On the festival’s first day, major mosques were kept closed during prayers, meaning that many were unable to celebrate the holiest Muslim festival of the year, marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
“On the morning of Eid there was no movement allowed, not of people walking on the streets, not of cars,” Tandon said.
Satellite television was one of the few remaining ways for Kashmiris to hear Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi give a speech, since phone, internet and cable television have been cut off. In addition, opposition leaders and many imams were arrested and access to ATMs was restricted.
In the speech, Modi explained the decision to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution, the section that hitherto guaranteed Kashmiri autonomy, saying it “was a hurdle for development of Kashmir [that] gave only separatism, nepotism, and corruption to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Modi attempted to reassure local residents, saying, “I want to tell the people of Jammu and Kashmir that your representatives will come from among you.”
FRANCE 24’s correspondent encountered people on the streets of Srinagar angry at the decision.
“This decision has been made without, not just the consent, but without even any sort of conversation with the Kashmiri people or its leaders,” Tandon said. “Some people told us that Article 370 was, in a sense, their only bridge to India and that has been burned.”