Lockdown, communication blockade continue in Indian-controlled Kashmir

Source:Xinhua Published: 2019/8/21 10:17:21

The massive lockdown and communication blockade imposed by local government continued in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir Tuesday for the 16th straight day, officials said.

Thousands of paramilitary troopers have been deployed across the region in Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir to enforce restrictions and prevent protest and demonstrations.

Men in uniforms and carrying automatic weapons have set up barricades on roads in a bid to disallow mass free movement of the people.

Locals in Srinagar city and other townships are facing extreme hardships in getting essentials. Shops and business establishments remain closed and public transport is off the roads.

Local residents in the region said the communication blockade has affected them seriously and pushed them back to stone age.

"It is a worst kind of blockade I have come across in the past 30 years of insurgency in the region. The fixed telephone service has been snapped, mobile phone connectivity remains suspended, internet is down. The authorities have literally pushed us back to the stone age," Shakeel Ahmad, a Srinagar resident told Xinhua.

"With all means of communication suspended, we don't know anything about our relatives and friends in other parts of the city and not to talk of ones who are outside Kashmir."

Ahmad's son works as a sales person in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and he has not been able to connect with him during the past 16 days.

"I used to talk to my son everyday before this but ever since this communication blockade, neither he knows about us nor do we have any information about him," Ahmad said.

Indian government on Aug. 5 abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution which had guaranteed a special status to the troubled region. Apart from this, the federal government bifurcated the erstwhile region into two Union Territories, which would be governed by the federal government directly.

Ahead of this major decision, the government snapped all means of communication and imposed strict curfew in the entire restive region, fearing a backlash from the people.

The authorities rushed in thousands of paramilitary troopers to the troubled region and took almost all the separatist leaders and hundreds of their supporters in preventive detention.

The two major regional pro-India parties National Conference and People Democratic Party (PDP) have strongly opposed the abrogation of the Article 370.

After two weeks of complete lockdown, local government on Monday evening announced the reopening of primary-level schools in Srinagar.

Although government claimed it had made necessary arrangements, the schools remained shut as no school bus was seen plying on the road or school children seen attending schools. The parents as well as private schools ignored the government's call in view of the apprehensive situation prevailing in the region.

"See there is no telephone communication and you know how tense the situation is," said Iqbal Ahmad, a resident of old city.

"Ideally opening schools should have been a last step after return of normalcy but government in order to hide its failures and score brownie points now tries to put lives of small kids at stake. How can we allow our children to go to school in such uncertainty?" Ahmad asked.

On Tuesday the schools remained shut. Reports said the attendance in government offices and banks remained largely affected.

"At some places in Srinagar and district headquarters, the offices are functional but the attendance usually remains thin," a government official on the condition of anonymity said. "Most offices are shut and employees are unable to reach there as public transport is off the roads."

The situation had also affected the healthcare in hospitals in Srinagar and elsewhere. Reports said the patient load had drastically fallen across the hospitals in wake of the blockade.

"We had given dates to patients for performing surgeries and other important procedures but with the uncertain situation and communication blockade prevalent here, patients are not approaching hospitals," a doctor posted at Srinagar's SMHS hospital wishing anonymity said.

The scrapping of special status to Indian-controlled Kashmir has brought Kashmir back into international limelight. A separatist movement and guerrilla war challenging New Delhi's rule is going on in the restive region since 1989.

Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed in entirety by both. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.


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