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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

HT Explainer: Ground reality in Kashmir

Since August 5, when the government revoked Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, all landline and mobile phones and Internet connectivity has been snapped across the Kashmir Valley.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2019 23:53 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Rezaul H Laskar
Smriti Kak Ramachandran and Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
A security personnel stands guard on a deserted road in Srinagar.
A security personnel stands guard on a deserted road in Srinagar.(Reuters image)

Is there a curfew in the Kashmir Valley?

Security personnel on the ground often talk about a “curfew” and the need for “curfew passes” but officials insist there is no curfew. Restrictions under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bars the assembly of four or more people in public places, are in force in most places and authorities are issuing what are known as “movement passes” to media personnel, government employees, health care professionals, and those who need to travel for urgent reasons. However, it is not easy to obtain these “movement passes”.

How extensive is the communications blackout?

Since August 5, when the government revoked Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, all landline and mobile phones and Internet connectivity has been snapped across the Kashmir Valley. Landlines have been restored in some parts of Srinagar and other places that haven’t witnessed any disturbances but function only intermittently, for a few hours every day. There are no indications that mobile Internet connectivity will be restored soon.

Advertisements in local newspapers have become a popular means of conveying information including announcements such as deaths, postponement of weddings or business activities. Arrangements have made for making brief phone calls at the deputy commissioner’s office and police stations and for people to receive information about travel arrangements.

Cable television networks have been snapped at some places and people are facing difficulties in recharging their direct-to-home (DTH) services.

Are shops and business establishments open in the Kashmir Valley?

There are no official restrictions on the functioning of business establishments but most shops and commercial outlets, except pharmacies, doctors’ clinics and small grocery stores and vegetable and fruit kiosks, are not open. There are reports of protestors forcibly closing shops though HT reporters saw several shops open in the interior areas of some suburbs of Srinagar over the past weekend. Some outlets, such as restaurants, are functioning with a “half shutter” – the front entrance is only partially open to facilitate the entry of customers.

Are schools and educational institutions open?

Only about 190 of the 930-odd schools in Srinagar have been reopened but attendance has been as low as 10%. Parents are reluctant to send their children to school and many prominent privately run schools in the city remain closed. Students were expected to return to Kashmir University this week after the summer break but there is uncertainty about students from rural areas returning to the city for classes.

Is there public transport?

Dozens of auto-rickshaws can be seen on the roads of Srinagar though other forms of public transport are yet to return. It is also not easy to travel from Srinagar to other parts of the Kashmir Valley as very few owners of taxis or other vehicles are willing to make long journeys, especially through areas that have witnessed stone-pelting and other protests.

How many people have been detained?

The government has declined to share official figures, citing non-availability of centralised data. However, information from multiple independent sources suggests that between 2,500 and 3,000 people have been detained, including three former chief ministers, a host of political leaders, prominent citizens and businesspeople. Most of the political detainees are under house arrest in their homes or are being held in hotels such as Centaur Hotel.

What is the casualty figure?

There is no data from the administration on casualty figures. Again, information from people familiar with the matter suggests some 60 to 130 people have been injured, including some who sustained pellet injuries during skirmishes between local residents and security forces in some areas of Srinagar. On Monday, authorities said Noor Mohammed Dar, a 42-year-old driver whose truck was mistaken for a security forces vehicle, was attacked by stone-pelters. Dar, who was hit on the head, succumbed to injuries. On Tuesday, two members of a nomadic community were reportedly killed by terrorists in the higher reaches of Tral in South Kashmir. Abdul Qadir Kohli, from Jammu’s Rajouri district, and his cousin Manzoor Ahmad Kohli were abducted after midnight on August 18 from Tral in Pulwama district.

What about health care services?

Government and private hospitals are functioning and pharmacies are open. The administration said as of August 22, medicines worth R23.81 crore was supplied to retailers and arrangements made to ensure that all stocks and supplies are replenished. Residents in far-flung areas of Kashmir Valley, however, have complained that only basic medical care is available and there are challenges for people who need specialised care for ailments such as diabetes and cancer.

First Published: Aug 27, 2019 23:31 IST

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