In 2019, Nida Rehman bought a parrot named Noor. Her family got annoyed with her spending all day talking to her pet. They asked her to release the bird, but she wasn’t convinced. “I loved Noor. I, too, felt caged like her,” she said.
Rehman lives in Indian-administered Kashmir, where the Indian government imposed an indefinite curfew in August 2019 and cut all communication channels, including telephone and internet services. The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government scrapped a constitutional article that provided a certain autonomy to the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir—and then put local leaders under house arrest, imposed a brutal crackdown on protests, and split the Muslim-majority state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, to be governed by the central government.
Cut off from the world long before the 2020 pandemic lockdowns, Rehman was left contemplating her future along with 13 million other Kashmiris. “Everybody around me was speculating on the length of the curfew,” she said. “Some said two months. Some said six. Some of my neighbors said that the government won’t lift the lockdown at all. I hated them all for saying so. We Kashmiris are used to lockdowns and curfews, but that one felt like a storm.”
As it turned out, Rehman’s neighbors weren’t entirely wrong. Not only would the lockdown linger in Kashmir, but the Modi government adopted similar tools as a weapon against political opponents in the country. From attacks on press freedom to targeted breaks in communication,