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'It's back to stone age': Kashmir Valley blacked out

August 06, 2019 20:57 IST

Desolate streets with security personnel and a communications lockdown has left the Valley cut off from the world.

IMAGE: A man carrying vessels walks across a deserted road during restrictions, in Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo

The situation in all three regions of Jammu and Kashmir is totally peaceful, top officials said on Tuesday but that did little to dispel the clouds of anxiety for lakhs of Kashmiris and many others as another day went by with the Valley blacked out from the world.  

With few workable phone and internet connections, just smatterings of information filtered out from the curtain of non-communication.           

There was also no news of former chief ministers, National Conference's Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party's Mehbooba Mufti, as well as People's Conference's leader Sajjad Lone, who were arrested in Srinagar on Monday evening.      

 

There are no untoward reports from anywhere in the state and the law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir is "totally peaceful", Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said from Srinagar, a day after the Rajya Sabha approved the resolution withdrawing the state's special status under Article 370 and the bill proposing that it be bifurcated into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

On Tuesday evening, the Lok Sabha gave its approval too.

Television channels aired visuals of celebratory fireworks as news came in of Parliament approving the government's far-reaching move.          

IMAGE: Policemen stand guard in a deserted street during restrictions in Jammu. Photograph: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

In Srinagar city, under a security and communications lockdown, people with urgent work are being allowed to move despite strict restrictions, Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choduhary said in his message.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh chaired a meeting of the Core Group of Intelligence and Security Agencies in Srinagar to review the operational readiness in case of any contingency.

Pakistan, he said, has intensified its efforts at increasing the strength of terrorists in launch pads along the LoC over the past few days and pushing infiltrators into Jammu and Kashmir. But the Indian Army will respond with resolve and the costs will be prohibitive for them, he said.           

According to a press release issued by Udhampur-based army officials, Singh also said necessary security arrangements were in place to ensure peace and security.           

But all of that was scant comfort, even for NC chief Farooq Abdullah. The 81-year-old said he learnt about the arrests of his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba only through the media. 

He contested Home Minister Amit Shah's assertion in the Lok Sabha that he was neither under detention nor arrest and was at his home of his own will.  Emotional but determined, he said they will fight and go to court against the Modi government's decision. 

"As soon as the gates will open, our people will be out, we will fight, we'll go to the court. We're not gun-runners, grenade-throwers, stone-throwers, we believe in peaceful resolution of things," he told TV channels in Srinagar.           

IMAGE: Security personnel stand guard in a market during restrictions in Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo

Among the few other images that came through the day were desolate streets with security personnel.           

With not much to go by, M Junaid, whose Twitter bio said he is a cultural anthropologist, was one of the many thousands who vented their anguish on social media.           

"Just so that you know, we have still not been able to speak with our families in Kashmir. There are dark whispers being shared about South Kashmir where my folks are. It has been the longest 24 hours, and there seems no end in sight...," he said on Tuesday morning.           

Unable to express their pain in words, many simply shared the last conversations they had with their loved ones.           

Khalid Singh, a Delhi-based associate fellow with the Observer Research Foundation, tweeted, "On my last phone call my mother said: ‘how will you get to know if I die'?"           

Local Kashmiris and tourists reaching the national capital from Srinagar were full of stories on their "disconnect" from the rest of the country. 

"It is back to the stone age for Kashmir,” said 42-year-old Khursheed Ahmed, who was heading to Haj via Delhi. 

WATCH: Article 370 scrapped: Security forces deployed across J-K

 

Sheikh, 32, who works in the corporate sector, and travels frequently for business purposes, poured his heart out.           

"We felt caged inside in our own city. Our mobile phone connection has been snapped, Internet shut, even cable TVs and landlines connections cut," he said. 

Furthermore, as Kashmir remained in a state of shutdown, those with families and friends in the valley are worried about the situation there, desperately waiting to hear from their loved ones.           

Kashmiris settled outside the state in India as well as abroad have taken to Twitter to share their anxiety about the ground situation in Kashmir and the feeling of helplessness about being away from their loved ones.             

Toufiq Rashid, a journalist, said that she had no idea about her family members living in Kashmir, some of whom suffered from multiple ailments. 

"I have no idea how my husband is. I am forcing myself to watch the mindless news in the channel he works for but they seemed to have blocked him for now. My tickets are booked for coming Eid, my children want to go home. I am struggling to make them understand that even if we land in Srinagar, there is no way we can make it home," she said.           

Another user of the micro-blogging site said he has been getting panic attacks ever since he lost contact with his family.           

"I am outside Kashmir and in New Delhi. We are in utter fear and I have anxiety issues and it just worsened. I am having panic attacks and it is getting worse as the moments pass without any contact with the family," he wrote.           

IMAGE: A view of a deserted flyover during restrictions in Jammu, Tuesday. Restrictions and night curfews were imposed in several districts of Jammu and Kashmir in the view of the revocation of Article 370 and introduction J & K Reorganisation Bill in Parliament. Photograph: PTI Photo

Unable to express their pain in words, many simply shared the last conversations they had with their loved ones.                      

A user shared a conversation with a college junior who has family in the valley. "A junior of mine from India occupied Kashmir sitting next to me in auditorium was so depressed that he started talking to me today and said, 'Baba had called me three days back and said itne paise bhej diye hain k aapka mbbs ho jaye, apna khayal rakhna, bohot acche doctor banna, aur kaisi bhi khabar as jaye ghar wapis na ana...'," he wrote. 

Baba Umar's parents advised him against paying them a visit in their "parting conversation".

"In parting conversation with parents, despondency was deep. they said: don't come for #Eid, what's there to celebrate in a siege, phones won't work soon, life will be curfewed, soldiers -- occupying streets and lanes -- will seek obedience, we're looking at a mini-war or massacres," he tweeted.     

Unsure of the situation in the valley Farah Bashir is worried for the health of her mother who suffers from acute osteoporosis and hasn't been able to visit her physiotherapist.

"My mother's bones are turning into powder due to acute osteoporosis. She has to go for physiotherapy daily to build muscles to support her fragile bone structure. Now she can't. By the time, the curfew and clampdown is lifted, how many of her bones will be gone? I don't know," she wrote.

Sameer Mufti said he did not have an answer for his six- year-old son who wanted to know if his grandparents would be visiting him on Eid.

"Today my 6 year old son was asking me if his grandparents are coming from Kashmir tomorrow for Eid as planned. He has been waiting for them for over a month. What should I tell him? Coz I don't know really... No contact since 4th night... I will be at the airport waiting," he wrote.

There were also those who looked for ways to go home from the Valley to make another life for themselves.        

Like the migrant workers and daily wage labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other heartland states, who told NDTV there were worried about what the future holds for them.

Thousands of them, who come to the Valley to earn livelihood, are stranded in Srinagar as there have been little or no availability of inter-state bus services.

The curfew-like situation has affected their livelihood as there have been a total closure of construction works in parts of the state amid restrictions and heavy security deployment. 

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