News reports point to novel methods of resisting the siege by Soura residents

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 8/21/2019 12:29:29 PM

Youth block entry points of locality, use mosque loudspeaker to mobilise residents

JAMMU, Aug 20: Residents of Soura in Srinagar are posing a major challenge for the government’s security forces by resisting the latter’s entry into the area, if some news reports are to be relied upon.
A couple of reports published in the last few days have shed light on the residents of Soura declaring an open rebellion against the lockdown imposed across the Valley and other parts of the state since August 5 last.
According to a Reuters report released today, young men have been taking turns to maintain a round-the-clock vigil at the entry points to their neighbourhood. Each of the dozen or so entrances have been blocked with makeshift barricades of bricks, corrugated metal sheets, wooden slabs and felled tree trunks. Groups of youths armed with stones congregate behind the biggest obstacles, the report said. “Their aim: to keep Indian security forces, and particularly the paramilitary police, out of the area,” it further added.
Based on several interviews of local youth who point out that “they are exploding from within”, the Reuters states that “Soura, home to about 15,000 people, is becoming the epicentre of resistance to the government's removal on August 5 of the partial autonomy enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir.” It adds that the enclave has become a virtual “no-go zone for the Indian security forces”.
According to the report, the residents in Soura say dozens of people have been injured in clashes with the paramilitary police over the past week. It is unclear how many have been detained. It also added that a spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir government declined to answer questions from Reuters. The Indian government's Home Ministry did not return calls and emails seeking comment.
The report states that residents have found novel ways to organize themselves and co-ordinate.
“When they spot security forces trying to enter the area, residents say they rush to a mosque and sound the alarm by playing a devotional song calling for people to "stand against illegal occupation", or by issuing an alert over the loudspeaker. Piles of bricks and stones, ready to use against Indian troops, sit at the intersections of the narrow lanes that make up Soura, a largely lower middle class area bounded to the west by a lake and marshy wetlands,” as per the Reuters.
At one barricade, concertina wire had been strung across the road. The young men patrolling the barrier said the wire had been stolen from Indian security forces, the report added.
According to another report in America’s reputed newspaper ‘The Atlantic’ published two days ago, youth are successfully using mosques to mobilise the public and stall the attempts by security forces to enter the area.
The Atlantic reported, “In Soura, after the entreaties made on the mosque’s speakers, young men emerged from their multistory mud-brick houses to prepare their own cordon. They set up barricades at all entry and exit points. Overnight, they gathered logs, tin sheets, stones, and bricks; a few roads were dug up to stop police vehicles from entering. Residents took turns to keep vigil at night. On Monday, when Eid was marked, and on Friday, residents marched around the local shrine and dispersed peacefully. A few days earlier, a similar protest march was met with tear-gas shelling and pellets.”
According to previous reports and video footage by BBC and Al Jazeera, a major protest in Soura took place on August 9, when people took to the streets after Friday prayers. The Indian government initially denied there had been a protest, saying there had been no gathering in Soura involving more than 20 people. It later said there had been a demonstration of 1,000 to 1,500 people.
Quoting unnamed police sources, the Reuters report said that on August 9 “as residents from surrounding neighbourhoods joined the demonstration, the crowd swelled to at least 10,000.” It also quoted a dozen residents as saying that “around 150 to 200 security personnel in riot gear attempted to enter Soura after the protests, resulting in clashes with residents that went on late into the night, as police fired tear gas and metal pellets.”
The report adds, “Since then, Soura has been the scene of smaller demonstrations and daily running battles with the security forces, according to people living in the neighbourhood. The security forces have made several attempts to enter Soura, according to residents, with the apparent goal of sealing off a large area of open ground next to the Jinab Sahib shrine that has become an assembly point for protesters.”
Reuters quotes another unnamed paramilitary police officer as saying that they are determined to regain control of the area. "We have been trying to enter, but there is a lot of resistance in that neighbourhood," the Indian paramilitary police official in Srinagar told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Yet another senior security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that "some of the youth of the area are highly radicalised" and it is "a hotbed of militancy", according to the report.
Amidst internet blockade and the area in question out of bounds for local journalists, it is difficult to verify and authenticate the report.



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