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Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear

On the streets of Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city, security officers tied black bandannas over their faces, grabbed their guns and took positions behind checkpoints. People glanced out the windows of their homes, afraid to step outside. Many were cutting back on meals and getting hungry.

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A sense of coiled menace hung over the locked-down city and the wider region on Saturday, a day after a huge protest erupted into clashes between Kashmiris and Indian security forces.

Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear

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Shops were shut. A.T.M.s had run dry. Just about all lines to the outside world — internet, mobile phones, even landlines — remained severed, rendering millions of people incommunicado.

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Correspondents for The New York Times got one of the first inside views of life under lockdown in Kashmir and found a population that felt besieged, confused, frightened and furious by the seismic events of this week.

People who ventured out said they had to beg officers to cross a landscape of sandbags, battered trucks and soldiers staring at them through metal face masks. Several residents said they had been beaten up by security forces for simply trying to buy necessities like milk.

India’s swift and unilateral decision Monday to wipe out Kashmir’s autonomy significantly raised tensions with its archrival, Pakistan, which also claims parts of Kashmir. The territory lying between the two nuclear armed nations was already one of Asia’s most dangerous and militarized flash points, smoldering for decades.

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Anything dramatic or provocative that happens here — and India’s move was widely seen as both — instantly sends a jolt of anxiety across this entire region.

On Friday afternoon, witnesses said tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators were moving through the streets of Srinagar, chanting freedom slogans and waving Kashmiri flags, when Indian forces opened fire.

The huge crowd panicked and scattered. Sustained bursts of automatic weapon fire could be heard in videos filmed during the protest, and at least seven people were wounded, hospital officials said, some sprayed by buckshot in the eyes.

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