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Kashmir under lockdown: ‘I just want to tell Ammi I am fine’

A deserted street in Srinagar on August 8, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

A resident of Baramulla in north Kashmir, Sajjad has not heard from his mother for the past week. “Tell them to restore mobile connectivity for only a minute, I just want to tell Ammi I am fine. She could be almost dead without hearing from me,” the 27-year-old hotel employee said. “They say everything is normal in Kashmir. The last time I read a newspaper was five days ago. I do not trust what the Delhi-based television channels are airing. There is no celebration here, we are not happy.”

Sajjad’s sentiments are echoed by a large number of people The Hindu spoke to in Srinagar after the Valley was placed under lockdown on the night of August 4. There is palpable anger at the Centre’s decision to annul Article 370, which gave a special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Emotions are running high. Just before noon, some men converged at Zero Bridge, one of the arterial roads of the city, smashed vehicles and tried to damage the camera of a television channel.

 

Some men were chased away as they tried to clash with the security forces deployed at Zero Bridge. By evening, the area appeared normal. South Kashmir, however, remained cut off and several weddings were cancelled.

The entry was restricted through concertina wires and the security personnel decide who would be allowed to pass through. An old man was seen pleading with the forces to be allowed to take his vehicle across the bridge. A man in his mid-50s, who did not wish to be identified, said he felt betrayed. ”Kashmir chose to be with India, but what they did on Monday was nothing less than a friend backstabbing another,” he said.

While all communication lines remained blocked for the fourth consecutive day, the only source of information here is television news. “The local cable channels are blocked. The Delhi-based channel say there is no curfew here and that life is completely normal. Thrice I heard the CRPF personnel announce on loudspeakers last night that there is curfew and we should not come out,” he said. He added the residents of the city were used to living under restrictions but this time it was different.

 

“Burhan Wani was killed in 2016; there were restrictions for six months. But that time they allowed post-paid mobile phones to function. This time there is zero connectivity. Phones are dead,” he said.

“In a way I am happy there is curfew; I do not want young boys to die in police firing,” another resident said.

The markets remained closed and only few shops selling essential items were open.

“We have stocked rations for few days but the shops are not being replenished. There is an uncertainty on when the restrictions will end,” Imityaz, a resident of Karan Nagar, said.

Explained | How Kashmir's Special Status and Article 370 are being changed
 

Petrol pumps open for only a couple of hours, well past midnight. Public transport is skeletal and people were seen hitching rides from fellow commuters. “Diesel is available but few vehicles run on it. Most small cars run on petrol, which is difficult to get,” said Dawood, another resident.

There has been no official communication from the administration. Residents hope they will be allowed to move freely at least on Id on Monday. “We watched on TV that NSA Ajit Doval was meeting some locals in Shopian. Who are these people? Didn’t you notice the downed shutters in the background?” rued Imtiyaz.

(All names have been changed for their protection)

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:47:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kashmir-under-lockdown-i-just-want-to-tell-ammi-i-am-fine/article28917905.ece

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