I have witnessed multiple clampdowns in my 10 years as a journalist in Kashmir , but this year has been the worst. Life was turned upside down, for everyone. The silence of a caged and disempowered people is a silence of simmering rage. It started in early August, with rumours – of war, the revocation of Kashmir’s special status or an attack – yet nobody could confirm what was coming. People had fears, given India ’s long-standing dispute with Pakistan over the Himalayan territory, stretching back to the partition of British India in 1947. The rumours turned into reality on August 5, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the partial autonomy of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. Eight million people suddenly had their rights snatched away and started life under a clampdown. All communication channels were blocked. A silence spread over the Kashmir Valley and the struggle to tell the story began. Without telling my parents, I left home at about 2am on August 5 and headed for my office in downtown Srinagar. Two of my colleagues and I browsed the internet, monitoring Kashmir’s busy social media space. We published a few stories until 6am and then slept at the office. Hours later we woke in a different Kashmir. By the time the constitutional change was announced – but not to the millions it impacted – a sense of helplessness and rage was brewing in the hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir. In the coming days, their sense of freedom was torn to pieces. Indian soldiers perforated the fabric of life. “Wapas jao!” (Go back!) was commonly heard being shouted at them. “You’re ordered not to venture out … curfew has been imposed,” loudspeakers announced. To prevent protests, over 4,000 people were arrested, many under the controversial Public Safety Act. If you were out of sight you were as good as dead to friends and family, as there was no way of contacting anyone. It was the strictest communication blackout ever seen in the region, where the internet has been shut down 180 times since 2012, according to the Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre. The longest shutdown was 133 days in 2016, it noted. Under the communication blackout and lockdown, a journalist’s identification card was a threat. At one barricade, a paramilitary official asked me: “What are you going to do by going to the office? Everything has been shut, what will you work for?” He was right. There was no way to tell the story of the siege, or of the rage of the people. The only place to meet fellow journalists was the Kashmir Press Club in Srinagar. There, we would wait for updates from those who had travelled from other parts of Kashmir. The old times were back – word of mouth was the only source. If it was my city under curfew? Artist on Kashmir lockdown With bits and pieces of information, journalists began to write stories, but there was no way to send them to anyone. For the first two weeks, some journalists, including myself, sent flash drives containing stories, photographs and video footage to New Delhi via passengers flying out of the region. A few newspapers managed to publish, despite having no phones, internet or distribution network. Everything was disrupted. In Kashmir, no news is not good news. After two weeks, the government set up a Media Facilitation Centre with a cellphone and 10 computers – which had the feeling of an internet cafe 20 years ago. It soon became a media hang-out, but reinforced the sense of surveillance. As I logged in, a dozen people standing behind me stared at the screen. Kashmir feels like a nuclear reactor, at risk of exploding anytime During this time there were stone-throwing incidents and officials responded with pellet guns, tear gas and beatings. Journalists continued their work and people tried to carry on with their lives while fearing arrest, injury or even death. It felt like the ongoing historical trauma had relapsed, and Kashmir had lost track of time and space. Since the revocation announcement on August 5, schools and most businesses remain shut and public transport is suspended, with only private vehicles on the roads. Markets are only open in the mornings. Paramilitary forces are still on the streets. After 72 days, the government restored over 4 million cellphone connections out of a total of 6.6 million, but the internet is still suspended. For civilians in Kashmir, normal life is non-existent. In the insanely loud news studios of India, where the lines between propaganda and journalism have blurred, normal has also lost its meaning. And for the journalists of Kashmir, a feeling of vulnerability, fear and hopelessness is gradually overpowering their passion for storytelling. What lies ahead for Kashmir? People are apprehensive. Their future appears to be bleak, given the region’s history. Kashmir feels like a nuclear reactor, at risk of exploding anytime. This feeling is visible everywhere – on the faces of civilians, the government forces, and the journalists too.