Kashmir cut off due to curfew, communication blackout
By Zaffar Iqbal
Srinagar Aug 5 (IANS) A curfew and a total communication blackout are in place in Kashmir with the government on Monday proposing to revoke Article 370 giving special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
In the morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with his Cabinet colleagues but there was no clarity on what the plan for Kashmir was until Home Minister Amit Shah introduced a Bill in the Rajya Sabha seeking to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution and dissolve the state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one.
With a communication shutdown in place, majority of the Kashmiris are still unaware of the decision on their fate.
Forty-year-old Nuzhat living in uptown Chanpora in Srinagar has stocked up milk and food for her two-year-old child but she is worried what is going to happen if the baby falls ill. A curfew will restrict her from taking her child to the doctor.
"My baby frequently suffers from chest infection. If a health emergency arises, I may not be able to take my boy to the doctor," a deeply disturbed Nuzhat said while breaking down.
Kashmir has remained in the grip of tension for the last 10 days with the Central government deploying thousands of paramilitary troops in the state without any clarification for the build up.
Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir administration last week issued unprecedented orders cancelling the Amarnath Yatra midway. The order categorically asked tourists to leave Kashmir.
The order read, "Keeping in view the largest intelligence inputs of terror threats with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir valley in the interest of safety and security of tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary steps to return as soon as possible."
The sudden calling off of the pilgrimage fuelled speculation of a possible government clamp down. The order also created panic among Kashmiris who sensed that the government of India might be preparing for a big move which would also mean the scrapping of the special status enjoyed by the state.
Ali Mohammad, a houseboat owner on the picturesque Nageen Lake in Srinagar, alleged that the police knocked his door on Friday morning and asked the tourists from Kolkata staying in the houseboat to leave immediately.
"I have never seen such a situation in my life when tourists are asked to pack their bags and go. This was not the case even in the height of militancy," said Ali Mohammad.
In the last fortnight, people in Kashmir frantically stocked up supplies and medicines fearing the worst. All this while there was no clarity from the government which triggered uncertainty and anxiety among the people.
But on Sunday night, there was a massive security lock down in Kashmir. The administration passed orders restricting movement of people while telephone lines, internet and cable TV were also shut.
Kashmir's mainstream politicians, including two former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and Sajjad Lone, were placed under house arrest at midnight.
After the government's move to revoke Article 370, the big worry now is that street protests could erupt in the Valley triggering a fresh wave of unrest against the decision even though there is huge deployment of security forces across J&K.
How the government is going to deal with the aftermath and arrest a possible law and order problem remains the main question now.