Around midnight on 18 August, the Indian Army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police detained seven people during a joint raid in Saderkoot Bala Malapora, a village in Bandipora district, according to residents. Among the seven were Mohammad Ramzan Ganei, a 40-year-old man and his 22-year-old son, Ishfaq Ahmad. The family said that the security forces in their house also assaulted Murtaza Bilal, an eight-year-old boy, who is Ganei’s grandson and Ahmed’s nephew. As one member of the forces lifted Bilal off the ground, a second member repeatedly hit him on his feet, while a third beat his head with a brick, the young boy recounted. “I had no idea why they were beating me,” Bilal said. Ganei was released ten days later, but Ishfaq still remains in custody.
Since 5 August, Kashmir has been in a state of lockdown after the Indian state read down Article 370 of the Constitution of India to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and downgraded it from a state to a union territory. Over seven million residents have been under a communications blackout and a military crackdown that has led to the arrests of at least four thousand people, according to news reports.
We visited Malapora on 14 September. Within minutes of asking a group of locals about the prevailing situation, we were surrounded by a crowd of men, women and children, each eager to talk about their experiences. It was evident that no journalist had visited the village since the Indian state’s clampdown began.
Amid the chaos, Ambreena Jan, a 12-year-old girl, held one of us by the hand and said, “I will take you to a house where an eight-year-old boy was beaten by forces.” Jan is Bilal’s friend and neighbour. The village comprises nearly a hundred houses, most of which are single-storey mud structures, while Bilal’s house was one of the few newly built two-storey buildings.
Ganei was crying when we entered the house—that morning, the family had learnt that after being held in custody at the Sumbal police station for 27 days, Ishfaq had been transferred to an undisclosed location. The house was crowded with over twenty people, even though the family comprised just ten, because men, women and children from the village had gathered at the house upon hearing the news of Ishfaq’s transfer. We sat in one of the central rooms on the ground floor as family members recounted the events of the night that Ishfaq and Ganei were detained. Most of the women were in a different room, consoling Ishfaq’s mother, who was also crying.