Fragmented politics mark Soura, J&K’s hub of violent separatism
Soura: An arrowed heart for “Pakistan” painted on a school wall adjacent to “Zakir Musa” and “ISJK” (Islamic State of Jammu & Kashmir) scribbled on the other wall is where the “liberated zone” in Kashmir begins.
Aanchar, popularly known as ‘Chhota Pakistan (Little Pakistan)’ in the Valley, is the belt where stone-pelters and mob rioters first came out onto the streets and have been continually clashing with security forces since the government revoked the special status of Jammu & Kashmir on August 5.
Historically, the area of Jamia Masjid and its neighbourhoods, including Aanchar, controlled by its chief cleric, the Mirwaiz, have been in favour of Pakistan and opposed to Kashmir’s most popular mainstream leader, Sheikh Abdullah, who negotiated Article 370 with New Delhi.
The clashes between the supporters of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and the Sheikh are so legendary that they came to be known as “Sher-Bakra” street fights. Sher is a reference to the Sheikh’s honorific title, “the Lion of Kashmir”, and bakra (goat) is an allusion to the long beards sported by orthodox Muslims and Pakistan favouring the Mirwaiz.
Even as Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has been under detention since August 5, the area erupts into protests every Friday after prayers. Except that now the nature of clashes and the parties involved have changed.
On a pavement in Soura, half a dozen old men told TOI that the violent protests are a response to the revocation of J&K’s special status. But no one is able to answer why no one raises J&K’s former state flag or its own constitution in the protests.
“The protests have nothing to do with the abrogation. The truth is that we want freedom from India,” said a group of young men.
The political fragmentation in Kashmir becomes clearer as the other group insists that National Conference secured freedom for Kashmir with Article 370 but that is now gone. “Go to Aanchar, you will find out the truth,” said two younger boys.
The roads to Aanchar are broken and blocked by concertina wire. “People are being oppressed here only because they have stood up for the cause of freeing Kashmir from India,” a woman told TOI. On the walls of several buildings, however, graffiti eulogising Islamic State and Zakir Musa, the slain founder of alQaida’s branch in Kashmir, muddled the political sentiment.
Disagreement in the zone extends from politics to other issues, including the number injured during clashes. In Soura, the number of people injured in the clashes varied from 40 to 200. The paramilitary in the area claimed that both the protests and the casualties have been marginal.
Full report on www.toi.in
Graffiti eulogising Zakir Musa, the slain founder of al-Qaida’s Kashmir branch, on a school gate in Aanchar