Two months on, no end to uncertainty in J&K

AFP photo

Spontaneous shutdown, intermittent restrictions on public movement, near-total communication blockade and uncertainty in Kashmir completed two months on Saturday with no end to miseries of people in sight.

On August 5, curbs were first imposed across Kashmir to prevent backlash from the public after the Parliament scraped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories.

Though the restrictions on public movement were gradually lifted as the situation improved, authorities have been restricting the movement of people in vulnerable areas of the valley every Friday, apprehending that vested interests might exploit the large gatherings at big mosques and shrines to fuel protests.

For the nine consecutive weeks, no Friday congregational prayers have been allowed at Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid in the old city. Security forces personnel, including police and paramilitary CRPF men wearing riot gears remain deployed in large numbers in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley to prevent any violence.  According to officials, there are no restrictions anywhere in Kashmir.

While landline phones were restored last month across Kashmir, mobile and internet services continue to remain snapped. J&K government spokesperson Rohit Kansal last month said provocations from across the Line of Control (LoC) were a major hurdle in the restoration of mobile and internet services in the Valley.

Normal life continues to remain affected and for the past two months, shops and business establishments are shut while public transport remains off-roads. At least a fleet of 50,000 commercial vehicles, including mini-buses and cabs, continue to remain grounded. Intra-Kashmir train services also remain halted for the last two months. However, private traffic has grown on roads, particularly in Srinagar city in the last two weeks.

The government’s move to reopen schools has failed as students have stayed away from classes. However, teachers and other staff in schools are attending their duties, albeit without any work.

The threat posters of militant outfits that started appearing from early September across Kashmir have been asking people to stay inside. In the posters, the militants have threatened those who keep their shops or businesses open and employees who attend their duties with dire consequences.

Petrol pump owners were asked to close their outlets and were threatened with blasts if they violated the order. They have also warned apple traders in various fruit mandis (markets) in Kashmir not to open their shops, threatening them with dire consequences, if they refused. Similar threats have been issued to educational institutions - schools, colleges, universities, asking them not to open.

Windowpanes of hundreds of vehicles have been broken across Kashmir for violating the militant diktats, though no party or organization has called for a shutdown.

Most of the mainstream political leaders, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, continue to remain under detention since August 5. Another former chief minister and incumbent MP, Farooq Abdullah has been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

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