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August 14, 2019

No food, medicines in IHK

Top Story

August 14, 2019

HELD SRINAGAR: Strict curfew and communication blackout continued in Held Kashmir for the ninth day as the people were facing acute shortage of food and medicines. The security lockdown has been going on since last Monday, when India’s Hindu-majority government rescinded years of autonomy and gave full control to New Delhi.

Officials eased restrictions earlier Sunday but imposed them again on Monday afternoon amid a tense atmosphere in the main city of Srinagar. The Indian troops had clamped tight restrictions on mosques across the valley for Eidul Azha festival, fearing anti-government protests over the stripping of the region's autonomy, according to residents.

Internet and phone communications have been cut and tens of thousands of troop reinforcements have flooded the main city of Srinagar and other towns and villages in the held valley. Residents had been confined to their houses due to stringent restrictions amid all the communication links of the territory with the outside world snapped by the authorities.

Monday, which marked the first day of Eidul Azha, saw people not being able to offer Eid prayers and slaughter sacrificial animals as the mosques were locked down. According to the Kashmir Media Service, announcements were made on loudspeakers and people were warned not to come out of their houses.

The Himalayan region's biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid, was ordered shut and people were only allowed topray in smaller local mosques so that no big crowds could gather. Meanwhile, outside a guarded government office in Indian Held Kashmir´s main city, an interminable queue forms every day for a near-priceless opportunity: a two-minute phone call to the outside world.

Residents of Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley have been starved of phone and internet use for a week as India snuffs out opposition to its military lockdown in the Himalayan region. Only two mobile phones with an outside line are on offer in the deputy commissioner´s office, but so desperate are people to contact families in the rest of India and overseas that they come from across Srinagar and beyond to wait in line.

Under the watchful eye of Indian paramilitaries, the calls and conversations are tightly controlled, and simmering frustrations often boil over. One 56-year-old woman, who had walked miles and was stopped at dozens of checkpoints along the way, became embroiled in an argument with security forces outside the office after she was turned away. "They stopped me from entering because they don´t have a female police officer to frisk me," the dejected woman, who was hoping to call her two children studying abroad, said.

"I am worried about my daughters but they would definitely be more worried about us," she said, declining to be named. In the end, she was left with no choice but to give her children numbers to a stranger in the queue and plead with him to try and contact them.

The Indian Supreme Court postponed hearing into a petition seeking lifting ban in IHK. Indian authorities need more time to restore order in Kashmir, a Supreme Court justice said on Tuesday.

The court is hearing an activist's petition seeking to lift curbs on communications and movement that have disrupted normal life and essential services in the Himalayan region. Restrictions on movement and assembly, including a ban on gatherings of more than four people, were tightly enforced on Tuesday in the region's main city, Srinagar.

Menaka Guruswamy, a lawyer for the petitioner, said the court should move to restore hospital services and open schools. “That is all I ask,” she told the Supreme Court in New Delhi. Justice Arun Mishra said the government wanted to bring Kashmir back to normal as soon as possible.

“The situation is such that nobody knows what is going on. We should give them time to restore normalcy. Nobody can take one per cent of chance,” Mishra said. “Who will be responsible if something really bad happens tomorrow?”

The petition also seeks the release of detained political leaders in Kashmir, among more than 300 people held to prevent widespread protests. The court is expected to rule on the petition in a few days. Meanwhile, former Indian prime minister Manmohan Sing said that the voices coming from across IHK must properly be heeded to and their genuine grievances should be addressed.

Congress Party Chief Rahul Gandhi said that he should be allowed to meet the Kashmiri people. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch and other rights organisations across the globe concerned over IHK situation. Human Rights Watch in its letter to Narendra Modi demanded restoration of previous status of IHK.

Meanwhile, an Indian home ministry spokesperson claimed on Twitter that the restrictions “are being eased out in a phased manner” in the tinderbox Kashmir Valley.

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