The state’s main city, Srinagar, has now been covered with a maze of razor wire and steel barricades with authorities changing the entrance and exit locations multiple times a day, leaving residents confused, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
India last week cancelled two articles in its constitution that guaranteed the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to make its own laws and prevent outsiders from buying property in the region.
This was coupled with a curfew and a communications blackout that shut off internet and phone access.
The elaborate network has a one-way system that prevents people from returning home in the same direction that they first travelled through it. It cuts through neighborhoods and blocks some roads, the AP said.
One resident, Zameer Ahmed, told the AP that the wire network is “so vast, so expansive.”
“The entire Srinagar city has been knitted in razor wire to seek our silence and obedience.”
The wire is accompanied by armed soldiers in riot gear, as well as helicopters patrolling overhead, the AP reported.
The city has a majority Muslim population, many of whom are concerned that India’s recent moves will see an influx of Hindus, altering the cultural and religious makeup of the city.
One resident told the AP that the system was the “smartest blockade” he had seen in the region over 30 years, compared to previous efforts by India. He said it was less violent than other efforts but still prevented people from voicing their opposition.
“If you must, they also allow you to venture out of home, yet they’ve throttled our voice by such a sophisticated blockade,” he said.
And another resident said: “They’ve changed the road map of our city, trying to make us like strangers in our own neighborhoods.”
Saiba Varma, a researcher at the the University of California, San Diego, who is looking at Srinagar, said the method was designed to “psychologically break people and teach them that they’re not in control of their own bodies.”
“They’re letting people eat but trying to control Kashmiri bodies, minds and spirits.”
The altered laws introduced by India’s parliament will let Indian citizens buy property in the state, which critics say could be an effort to change the state’s demographics.
The Jammu and Kashmir state is actually a smaller part of the Kashmir region, which has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries claim the territory in its entirety, and have fought three wars over it.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that India was trying “to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing.” He said that the curfew and “impending genocide” was inspired by “Nazi ideology” and compared global inaction on the issue to ignoring Hitler.
Indian diplomats accused Pakistan last week of trying to “present an alarming picture to the world.”
Police in the Jammu and Kashmir state defended their moves on Sunday, saying that “not a single bullet had been fired in the last six days,” and said that protests in the state were small and stopped without violence.
Thousands of people protested the Indian government in Srinagar on Friday, and that the police used tear gas to disperse them, Reuters and the BBC reported. India said that protests did not exceed 20 people, though the BBC had video footage of the large protests.
Pakistan asked the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday for an urgent meeting about the region. India has consistently argued that the dispute is a regional issue, that does not warrant outside influence.