Kashmir: Eid round the corner but lockdown continues

Kashmir: Eid round the corner but lockdown continues

Security personnel walk on a street in Srinagar as widespread restrictions on movement and a telecommunications blackout remained in place. (AFP Photo)

Despite Bakr-Eid just days away, security lockdown continued in Kashmir for the sixth consecutive day on Saturday with thousands of security personnel remaining positioned across the Valley amid continuous communication blockade.

Hundreds of political leaders and activists, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, continue to remain under arrest as authorities tried to avoid protests and rallies against the Centre's decision to end special status and turn Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

Though there were reports that phone services and internet were partly restored on Friday and restrictions were eased to facilitate Eid celebrations on Monday, residents in Srinagar belied government claims.

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“They (government) may have restored phone and internet services, it is not for common people, but for police and security forces officers. If restrictions have been eased, then why people are not being allowed to move,” asked Zubair Ahmad, a resident of old city Srinagar.

“With markets closed in Srinagar, amid the continuous curfew for the past six days, we find it hard to buy essentials like milk, medicines and baby food. In coming days, the situation will turn grave, if security lockdown continues,” he added.

Another resident said that petrol pumps in the city were completely shut and the ATMs are also not working at most of the places. “It is a war like situation. We have been forced to live under sub-human conditions,” he rued.

Reports of isolated protests and clashes between civilians and security forces were received from several localities of Kashmir.

On Friday police used tear gas canisters and pellets to disperse a crowd of few thousand people protesting against New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate the state.

The demonstration soon after Friday prayers in Soura area on the outskirts of Srinagar city was the largest since authorities locked down the region six days ago, cutting off telephone and internet services.

Reportedly 12 protesters were injured in the clashes, taking the total toll of injured in the protests this week to at least 30.

Despite the lockdown, hundreds of Kashmiris have been taking flights to Srinagar from Delhi to spend Eid with their families. However, at Srinagar airport only chaos and confusion is in the air.

The road leading from the airport to the city is dotted with para-military personnel, who are enforcing strict restrictions. The road intersections have been blocked by erecting plastic cubes and concertina wires, to slow down the thinly moving private vehicles and security or official vehicles.

Even six days have passed since the clampdown was imposed, administration has not issued any curfew passes to the journalists.

“We have already informed the authorities for issuance of curfew passes for media persons. The higher ups have to take decision in this regard,” said Syed Sehrish Asghar, Director J&K Information department.

However, sources said, there are verbal orders not to issue any curfew passes to media persons and also ensure they don’t get internet connectivity to file daily reports.

Authorities had on Friday claimed that 300 telephone booths have been setup for the people to reach out to their relatives living outside the Union Territory.

Ironically, majority of the people in the Valley are not aware about the existence and location of these telephone booths.


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