From Sep 2014 disruptions amidst floods to 2019 absolute clampdown

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 9/11/2019 11:08:55 AM

Communication breakdown in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Sep 10: Exactly five years ago, Kashmir was hit by a major communication breakdown caused by devastating floods. The unprecedented floods which were beyond the imagination of the people caused massive devastation and hit the areas which till that time were considered flood-free like that of Lal Chowk and its adjoining areas.
This September, Kashmir is once again reeling under a far bigger communication breakdown, encompassing not only a few areas as during 2014 floods but the entire Valley. That time the communication was hit in flood affected and some adjoining areas due to nature’s fury. This time it is a lockdown by the government in response to the Kashmir situation.
Mobile phones and internet services continue to remain blocked since August 5 when the articles 370 and 35A were scrapped and J&K state divided into two union territories. However, the landline phones were restored recently after several weeks of blockade.
The September 2014 flood was preceded by heavy rains for almost a week causing concern among the people living in flood prone areas. When the flood finally hit, it took everybody by surprise. The scale and magnitude was much higher. The flood also hit otherwise safe areas of Lal Chowk, Regal Chowk, Budhshah Chowk, Maisuma, Gawkadal, Rambagh, Solina, Batamaloo, Sonwar, Shivpora, Rajbagh, Jawaharnagar, Dalgate and some other areas also. Mehjoornagar, Natipora, Pampore, Awantipora, parts of Pulwama and other parts of Valley, thousands of people fled towards safer places and took shelter in relief centres, but others could not get a chance to leave and had nightmarish experience in the buildings where ground floor and even second level storeys were also completely submerged.
With telephone exchanges and other communication infrastructure also affected by flood, the mobile and landline phones became non-functional. Internet was also snapped and roads cut off by the flood water. This caused lot of concern among the people who had no information about the fate of their near and dear ones. Even the radio stations which were providing the flood related reports stopped working due to flood. It took weeks together for the water to recede and a long time for life to get back on track after massive devastation.
Five years hence, Kashmir is experiencing sunny afternoons with a slight drop in temperatures during night. Despite the favourable weather conditions, normal life continues to be disrupted. Nobody can guess when exactly life will be back on track.
Today was the 37th day of shutdown and restrictions were reimposed in most parts on 10th Muharrum. The shutdown is spontaneous. There is no call from any leadership. Senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who used to give protest calendar in 2008, 2016 and 2010 unrest are under house arrest. JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik who was part of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) is lodged in Tihar jail after his arrest. Posters are appearing in some local areas asking the people to continue shutdown. Reports indicate that some arrests have been made by police for making and pasting posters.
While authorities have announced lifting of restrictions from most areas, but these are re-imposed on the day whenever there is any apprehension of protests or clashes. Restrictions or no restrictions, the heavy deployment of security forces is always there amidst the continuous shutdown. On the day of restriction, the security men seal the roads with barbed wire.
The centre started rushing thousands of additional troops to Kashmir in July, causing concern among the people about future developments. The centre and local administration said it was being done to strengthen counter insurgency grid amid inputs of militants planning to target Amarnath Yatra. The pilgrimage was halted abruptly and the yatris sent back to homes and so were the tourists and other labourers from outside.
However, the opposition mainstream parties and people feared that the special status of the state would be tampered with. Finally on August 5, centre not only scrapped the Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status under Indian constitution but also divided J&K stare into two union territories. The massive clampdown including communication blockade is result of those developments.



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