Weeks of security crackdown has largely prevented streets protests in Kashmir but a small, nondescript neighborhood has emerged as the new epicenter of anti-India resistance in the disputed Himalayan region.
Soura, a small locality on the outskirts of Srinagar, the main city of the strife-torn north Indian state, has earned an epithet of Kashmir's Gaza Strip because of frequent protests since India ended on Aug. 5 the semi-autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region disputed between India and Pakistan.
The move that stripped Kashmir of the privilege of having its own constitution, a separate flag, and limited self-governance, was preceded by an unprecedented security lockdown with deployment of additional tens of thousands of troops in already one of the highest militarized regions in the world.
The authorities imposed a curfew and snapped phone and internet lines in the state on the night before making the decision.
There have been no reports of widespread demonstrations or mass violation of restrictions. But some angry residents in the interiors of Srinagar and on its peripheries have been holding spontaneous anti-India protests.
One of them, and perhaps the most spoken about is Soura, a densely-populated neighborhood known for a Muslim shrine, a multi-specialty health center, a highly-polluted lake and marshy wetlands towards its west.
According to locals in the area and its immediate neighborhood, protesters during the day frequently engage security forces on the edges of the enclave in stone-pelting clashes.
As the sun goes down, all the eight entry points to the enclave are barricaded with large tin sheets and wooden logs to keep security forces away from conducting nocturnal raids.
Young men take turns to maintain a vigil at the entry points, say witnesses. Large craters have been dug up along the entry lanes to stop armored vehicles of the security forces from driving in.
The clips of protests in Soura have gone viral as a symbol to mark Kashmiris' resistance against India's decision, with people fearing that the Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was planning to settle people from the rest of the country permanently there.
"No politician has asked us to protest. And how do you expect anyone to instigate protests when all communication lines are snapped," Asghar Hussain, a Soura resident, told EFE.
Hussain had sneaked out of the locality as he was chased by the security forces who had come to arrest him and other suspects.
"These are all spontaneous protests and stemming out from our conscience. We need not to be told to protest after an assault on our identity, demography and culture."
The government earlier denied that protest demonstrations were being carried out in Soura as police officers said images and videos from the area were old.
However, the protesters then began writing dates of demonstrations on handwritten placards some of which read: "We dream of an independent Kashmir", "Abrogation of Article 370 is assault on our culture", "Wake up United Nations."
Security forces have fired pellets and tear gas at protesters and as a result an unknown number of people have been injured.
After initially denying, the government admitted that there have been "localized incidents" in various parts of Srinagar and other districts which caused no major injuries.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, a Central government appointee who has been administering the state since months before the special status was abrogated, told reporters on Wednesday that "no civilian casualty" has occurred in the last three weeks.
"Every Kashmiri life is valuable to us, we don't want loss of even a single life. Only a few who got violent are injured, and their injuries are below the waist," Malik said.
According to locals, thousands of suspects have been arrested across the valley in nocturnal raids.
Officials say there is no figure on the number of people arrested. Various media reports estimate that over 2,000 Kashmiris, including trade leaders, human rights activists, politicians, and students have been rounded up by paramilitary forces.
"We detain young people, counsel and then release them. It's not possible to share the numbers but it is a small number," Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh said in the news conference with the governor.
Some of the relatives of the arrested told EFE that police and other security agencies have not informed them on the whereabouts of those held.
"We went to the central jail (in Srinagar) and were told that those arrested have been lodged in jails outside Kashmir," the wife of a business leader complained. Her husband was arrested on Aug. 4. EFE-EPA