Communication blackout sparks panic among Kashmiris outside J-K, states assure safety

The government on Sunday had snapped internet, telephone, and television services to deter any protests against the revocation of special status.
Kashmiri students at a gurudwara in Mohali ahead of leaving for Kashmir with help of Khalsa Aid.(Anil Dayal/HT PHOTO)
Kashmiri students at a gurudwara in Mohali ahead of leaving for Kashmir with help of Khalsa Aid.(Anil Dayal/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Aug 06, 2019 09:28 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAadil Mir

There was fear, anger and skepticism among Kashmiris, including students living in other parts of the country on Tuesday over the continued communications blackout in the Valley and abrogation of Article 370 which gave Jammu and Kashmir special status.

The government on Sunday had snapped internet, telephone, and television services to deter any protests against the revocation of special status, anticipating trouble on Monday when Union home minister Amit Shah announced the scrapping of Article 370 and reorganization of the state. However, no untoward incident involving Kashmiris have been reported from anywhere across the country since the announcement was made.

Also read: In Kashmir, leaders’ movement restricted; schools shut, internet snapped

There is no clarity by when the communication network will be restored in the valley, a concern raised by several Kashmiris across the country, who wanted to inquire about the well-being of their families back home in Kashmir.

Hadif Nissar, who hails from Anantnag said there was a complete communication blackout in Kashmir and he was not able to talk to his parents and relatives. “We really do not know what is happening over there. We are panicky.”

Nissar, who is also president of Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Association in the University of Hyderabad, is skeptical about the future of Kashmir. “I know how the situation has been in Kashmir over the years and I think the situation will turn from bad to worse. The government cannot confine the people to their homes and rule. They are feeling not only insecure but also intimidated,” he said.

Falak Manzoor, 17, of Baramula is in Kota to prepare for NEET, the entrance exam for admission to UG course in medical colleges. She said she last spoke to her parents on Sunday night: “It is a tough time in the valley so we are also fretful about the safety of the families back home.”

She said she is unsure of when she will be able to speak to her father.

Tawqeer Hussain, a Delhi-based journalist who has been stationed in the national capital for more than eight years now, said this was for the first time he was facing this kind of anxiety about his family back home.

“Internet connection and mobile services had been shut down earlier too, but landline phones used to work. This has happened for the first time in years,” said Tawqeer, adding that “It’s unfortunate the voices of those most affected by that decision haven’t been heard, because they are under a communication blackout.”

Asif Mushtaq, who lives in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, said that he was supposed to go home for Eid, but now plans to cancel the air tickets, as the situation there was tense and may turn extremely volatile in the coming days.

Like many others, he is also in the dark about the condition of his family members and is hoping that they are safe. “I’m planning to cancel my trip now. It is too risky,” Asif said.

Kashmiris outside the valley are not only are worried about well being of their families back home, but are worried about their safety as well even though the home ministry on Monday ordered police chiefs of all states to ensure the safety and security of Kashmiris, especially students.

Rajasthan’s director-general of police, Bhupendra Singh Yadav has ordered the entire department to keep an eye anti-social elements so that law and order the situation could be maintained.

“We are keeping a strict vigil especially on the anti-social elements so that law and order situation could be maintained,” said DGP Yadav.

Another senior official who requested anonymity said that most of the superintendents of police have canceled the leave of their subordinates. They have been asked to deploy extra forces in sensitive zones.

In Madhya Pradesh, Gwalior collector Anurag Choudhary has sought information on Kashmiri students studying at different educational institutions.

Choudhary said, “It’s a duty of the administration to provide security to students and for that, I have asked the authorities of different educational institutions to share information about their whereabouts of Kashmiri students with the administration so that their security could be ensured.”

The MP Police is also on alert and have sent messages to Kashmiri people, that they don’t need to be afraid of anything. If they have any doubt about their security police protection would be provided to them, said the state’s director general of police VK Singh.

Also read: Disconnected from families, Kashmiri students in Punjab a worried lot

Following the Center’s move, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had prohibited any kind of celebrations or protests in the state on the grounds that it could vitiate the atmosphere. Amarinder also reviewed the law and order situation in Punjab amid apprehension of an adverse reaction from Pakistan to the developments.

Issuing a stern warning to those spread rumors, Amritsar deputy commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon said stringent action will be taken against those responsible. He asked heads of the educational institutes to create a sense of security among the Kashmiri students studying in their respective institutions. He also directed the sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) and deputy superintendent of police (DSPs) to reach out to these students.

The students from various colleges and universities in Punjab decided to return home as they fear the restrictions in the valley will remain for a longer time and they want to be with their families in this tough time.

Also read: As phone lines fall silent, Kashmiri students in Chandigarh on the edge

Mariya Gaffar, a Kashmiri student who was at Chandigarh airport said, “At least 50 to 60 students have already arrived here to fly back home. Many students did not have money so we have collectively arranged tickets for them. The situation in the valley is uncertain and we do not know for how long the mobile services will remain suspended in Kashmir.”

These students fear that their parents will be worried about them considering they live outside the state, and that’s the reason they will travel to back so that they remain peaceful.

“We don’t know what will happen after going back, and how long this clampdown will remain, but we want to be with our loved ones where we’ll feel safe,” says Javed Bhat.

(With inputs from state Bureaus)

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