A mother unable to get updates from the hospital about her premature newborn. A bride who couldn't have the wedding of her dreams. The photojournalist who risks double harassment by security forces due to her profession and her gender.
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government stripped disputed Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous powers in August and placed the Muslim-majority region under a massive security lockdown, life has been a struggle for ordinary Kashmiris.
Indian soldiers from outside the region flooded the streets and thousands were arrested. A curfew was put in place. The government cut of most of the region's communications with the outside world, shut off the internet and telephone services. Even public transportation services were stopped.
Authorities have eased some restrictions, lifting the curfew, removing roadblocks and restoring landlines and some mobile phone services, but the other measures remain in place. India says they're needed to prevent the violent street protests that are common in the region.
While men historically make up most protesters and insurgents in the region and are often the first arrested or physically abused in security crackdowns, experts say Kashmiri women are suffering from the lockdown in their own less visible way.
Ateeqa Begum poses for a photograph in her home in in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Ateeqa has lived alone ever since her only son 22-year-old Fasil Aslam Mir, the family's sole breadwinner, was detained on his way home after fetching medicines for her on the day the lockdown began.
" My son has been shifted to a jail in an Indian city and I have no means to travel there to see him,” she said.
Kashmiri kayaker Mehak Peer sits for a photograph during her first practice session since Aug. 5, on the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir. Because of the lockdown and internet blockade Mehak missed three tournaments.
“I was hoping to make it to the international level but after missing these national tournaments, that is no longer possible."
Jawahira Banoo carries her 3-year-old daughter Rutba while standing for a photograph outside a shop with a graffiti message after a protest on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Banoo says she does not miss an opportunity to come out to the streets to protest.
“The men are at a higher risk of being detained,”
Kashmiri doctor Sabahat Rasool sits for a photograph inside her clinic in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Rasool tells the story of a pregnant woman who refused to be admitted in hospital because there was no way she could communicate with her family and tell them that she needed to be admitted. She was brought in unconscious the next day.
“She survived but lost her unborn baby all because she could not afford to stay back the previous night for fear her family would think she was missing or kidnapped.”
Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra poses during a protest on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Masrat was covering the first Friday protest since the lockdown when a police officer threatened to kick her. She notes that Kashmiri women can’t leave their homes without a male companion out of fear they’ll be harassed by soldiers. Nevertheless, she is undeterred.
“You cannot remain silent. If you come out and speak, someone will hear your voice. Coming out to work is my way of protesting.”
Sahana Fatima, the first female entrepreneur in printing who runs the only sports magazine in the Kashmir valley, sits for a photograph inside her office in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Sahara says they were unable to print the August edition due to the blockade.
“Everything has come to a standstill.”
Zahida Jahangir carries her two-month-old son Mohammad Taimor as she stands for a photograph inside their home in Lolab, north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Mohammad was born premature and Zahida was separated from him for the first 20 days of his life. Though he is now healthy, the experience has created what she says is a pain only a mother could know and left her with regrets that will last a lifetime.
Mantasha Binti Rashid
Founder of Kashmir Women's Collective
Mantasha Binti Rashid, founder of Kashmir Women's Collective, sits for a photograph in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir. Since the lockdown, her organization has seen a marked rise in violence against women as victims do not have a way to reach out for help.
“Women suffer disproportionately.”
Newly married Kashmiri woman Kulsuma Rameez, 24, stands inside her home on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Kulsuma’s wedding was scheduled during the lockdown and she was unable to go shopping for the wedding dress she dreamed of. Instead she was married in a borrowed dress at a small ceremony attended by a few relatives and neighbors. After the ceremony, she had to walk to her new home as the roads were blocked.
Kashmiri-born Australian Sumaya Rather sits with her eight-month-old daughter Noor Rather and four-year-old son Ahmed Rather inside her home on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Sumaya said Noor fell ill because she couldn’t adjust to the milk supplement brands that were available in Srinagar. Taking her to a hospital was a big challenge as there were protests and road blockades set up by both soldiers and Kashmiri youths.
Tabeer & Taseer Shafi Bhat
Twin sisters Tabeer Shafi Bhat, right, and Taseer Shafi Bhat stand for photographs inside an apple orchard in Wuyan, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. The girls said that they've had nothing to do since the lockdown started on Aug. 5 and that they miss going to school. Authorities encouraged students to return to school but parents have largely remained unwilling to send their kids to educational institutes due to the restrictions in place.
Wife of detainee
Sumaira Bilal, wife of Kashmiri detainee Bilal Ahmed, talks to her two-year-old daughter as they sit in their home in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. Ahmed was detained on the night of Aug. 5, the day Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government repealed Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, stripping Kashmir of its statehood. Sumaira says her daughter points to the window often and calls for her father.
“Baba, Baba, when are you coming back?”
Biba's cousin died on Aug. 3, but she was informed about it almost a week later.
"I missed the funeral and the 'Fateh Khani' condolence meeting, which is held on the fourth day and is very important for us. Our menfolk still haven’t visited fearing detention by police on the way to our relative's home.”
Text from AP News story, AP Photos: Kashmir women struggle amid India lockdown, by Dar Yasin and Yirmiyan Arthur
Photos by Dar Yasin