In the stillness of Kashmir, hopes fade and barges sink

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Kashmir, the beautiful rugged region in the shadow of the Himalayas long wedged between India and Pakistan, has fallen into a state of suspended animation. Schools are closed. Lockdowns were imposed, lifted and then re-imposed.

Once a hub for Western and Indian tourists, Kashmir has been in shock for over a year. First, India has called on the security forces to suppress the region. Then the coronavirus hit.

The streets are full of soldiers. Military bunkers, removed years ago, are making a comeback and in many places are cutting off the road. On highways, soldiers stop passenger vehicles and drag commuters to check their ID cards. It’s a scene reminiscent of the 1990s when an armed insurgency erupted and the Indian government deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to crush it.

The conflict in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, has been raging for decades. And an armed uprising has long sought autonomy. Tens of thousands of rebels, civilians and security forces have died since 1990. India and Pakistan have gone to war twice over the territory, which is shared between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

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