Frag­mented pol­i­tics mark Soura, J&K’s hub of vi­o­lent sep­a­ratism

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - [email protected] times­

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

Graf­fiti eu­lo­gis­ing Zakir Musa, the slain founder of al-Qaida’s Kash­mir branch, on a school gate in Aan­char

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