Fear keeps residents indoors after sunset in south Kashmir

Shopian: During harvest season, south Kashmir’s rural pockets used to be abuzz with activities. Not this time. Fear is so palpable that residents from twin districts Pulwama and Shopian abandon their field as soon as dusk falls to avoid attracting attention of government forces who have stepped up patrolling and checkpoints.
In vast villages spread across blooming apple orchards, residents say they are being harassed by forces who snatch their identity cards and ask them to report to their camps.
Pulwama’s Chandgam village, for example, is one such village where people stay indoors after sundown. A resident explaining the fear said that he turns off lights of his room and sleeps as soldiers are patrolling in villages.
“The buzz is no more there despite harvesting season at its peak,” a local resident said, adding, students no longer study till late in the night and families don’t watch their popular TV serials or news debates.
“We confine ourselves to homes as fear looms over other activities,” the resident said.
On a visit after 8:30 pm to the village, very few lights could be seen glowing in the area comprising of more than 3000 households.
“Fear has gripped the entire village, even the medical stores prefer to shut down after sunset,” said a local medico, wishing not to be named.
Similar scenes can be found in Tahab, Tumlahal, Lassipora, Wasura, Trichal and other adjoining villages like Arihal.
The situation is no different in neighbouring Shopian district.
At Turkwangam village of Shopian, residents said, government forces thrashed several youth and took some into custody over stone pelting charges.
“We were regularly harassed by the forces party and then we (village Auqaf committe) unanimously decided to approach Army’s Commanding Officer (CO) at Lassipora to appraise him about the problems faced by the residents,” residents of Turkwangam said.
“Meeting CO brought a major relief, as after that no one was harassed,” they added.
According to locals, the fear is reminiscent of 1990’s and at certain areas it is worse than that.
“Several people, mostly drivers were thrashed by some unknown persons and disappeared after taking the advantage of darkness and dense apple orchards,” Aabid Ahmad, a resident of Pinjoora said.
“Even if one falls ill in the house in the late hours, no one dares to take him or her to the hospital, rather they wait till dawn,” Ahmad added.
Last year, Shopian fruit mandi would remain open till midnight loading hundreds of trucks every night, however, that buzz is missing this year.
“This time one can’t step out of his home after 8 pm,” Mohammad Amin, a local resident of Arhama said.
Like other parts of Kashmir, the area is on edge since August 5, after Article 370 was scrapped and Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two union territories (UT).

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