Information blockade creates panic among Kashmiris

A Kashmiri plays cricket in a deserted area during curfew in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (AP/PTI)

Curfews, shutdowns, protests and violence is nothing new to Kashmir as people have been witnessing it for the last three decades. During 2008 Amarnath land row agitation and summer unrests of 2010 and 2016, Kashmiris remained locked down for months together.

People in the Valley have learnt to live amid such difficult situations. However, the lockdown of the last five days is unprecedented. There has never been such panic among the locals as situation this time is so scary. Information blockade has made things worse as people have no clue about the developments happening around them.

Most local English and Urdu newspapers based in Srinagar have not published their editions since Monday, when authorities imposed a lockdown to deter any protests against New Delhi’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Internet, mobile phones and all means of communication have been blocked.

Kashmiris living in rest of the country and the world have been putting up message on social media trying to gather some information about the well being of their family back home. And families in Kashmir, whose members are outside are equally concerned.

Since Thursday this reporter received dozens of messages from friends and known people settled outside the state. They all wanted to know whether their family members in Kashmir are safe. 

“My parents are old and on regular medications... I don’t even know if they have sufficient medication at home,” was facebook message of one Saima Gul, to this reporter.

Saima, who works in Bangalore, was desperate to know whether government has provided any emergency helpline numbers.

A similar message from an old friend Jalil Lone, who works in an international NGO and is posted in Bangladesh, was received by this scribe. “I haven’t spoken to family for past one week. My wife with kids lives alone in Srinagar. They live in Ompora colony. It’s on the way towards Budgam.”

Some of my college friends, who work outside the state and the country had similar apprehensions. “Please visit our families and check whether they are safe, whether they have enough medicines and food. When will information blockade end? We heard some landline numbers will be restored……” were the common queries.

In response, all what I could give them was hope. They wanted “Insha Allah (Allah willing) everything will be alright soon” was my common reply to all of them.

And back home people, whose children are studying outside the state are concerned as to how they will be able to transfer money to them. 

“As it was the start of the month, I couldn’t transfer money to the account of my son, who is doing engineering in Punjab. How will he survive without money? Two days later it is Eid and I fear my son will be having no money even to have two square meals that day,” Ghulam Rasool, a shopkeeper in civil lines Srinagar, told DH.

Thousands of Kashmiri students are enrolled in different colleges, universities and other educational institutions across the country. Earlier in February, a large number of them had to return back homes after they were attacked by unruly mobs in the wake of February 14 terror attack in Pulwama, in which over 40 paramilitary CRPF personnel were killed.

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