Suspension of telecom services further humanitarian crises in curfewed Kashmir

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Srinagar, July 16: Even as Kashmir continues to be under strict curfew for the eighth consecutive day Saturday, the suspension of mobile phone and internet services has festered humanitarian crises in the Valley.
The ban on phone connectivity has led to major communication breakdown among the besieged seven odd million people of Kashmir, already starving for the want of essentials in the Valley where over 41 people have died and over 3000 wounded since July 8, when Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed by security forces.
While the people within Kashmir are unable to get in touch with their nears-and-dears putting up across the Valley, the Kashmiris outstation are equally worried.
Shabir Ahmed Reshi, a Kashmiri techie working in Hyderabad said he was unable to contact to his family to know about their well-being as their phones are not working. “Is this 21st century Kashmir where people are unable to know even about the well being of their nears and dears in the hour of crises,” Reshi posted on his Facebook wall.
A delegation of students from Shopian who study at a college in Bangalore told Kashmir Observer that they have no contact with their parents back home. “On one hand we are worried about their well being whereas on the other we are running short of money. We don’t know what to do,” said the students over phone from Bangalore. Only BSNL postpaid mobile phones are operational in Kashmir.
“It seems like we will have to skip college and rush back to Kashmir. Because neither our families are safe nor we have resources to stay back,” the students complained.
People said the state government has rubbed salts on their wounds by issuing helpline numbers amid telecom breakdown. “Government has circulated a lot of emergency contact numbers but subsequently they have snapped the mobile services, how can a common man call ambulances or call any emergency services such as fire service. Hardly 3% of Kashmiris have wired landline in their homes,” argued Hamid Qureshi, a local.
Qureshi, who has been deeply looking into the problem said: “Government has already stopped internet services a week ago without taking into consideration the people who are totally dependent on internet.” “The (government) can’t give jobs to us but they leave no stone un-turned to snatch the jobs. I had come here for a family emergency where I promised my company outstation that I will support them from Kashmir online, however internet didn’t worked. As a result I am afraid I will lose my job as I am unable to contact my company people,” he rued.
Scores of wounded admitted at the hospitals are equally helpless. Tariq Ahmed of Kupwara who lost his eye in pellet attack by security forces has been lying at SMHS Hospital but three days on, his wife back home is unable to know about the tragedy which has befallen them as the phone lines are suspended.
Medicos are equally worried over the crises. Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) said that patients face immense hardships due to suspension of mobile phone services.
Demanding immediate restoration of cell phone services, President DAK Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that patient care is worst hit and patients suffer the consequences of this snapping.
“It is ironical that cell phone services go off during medical emergency. On one hand helpline numbers are provided to the people in view of medical emergency, on the other hand cell phone services are suspended,” he ridiculed.
He said this way the sick and wounded are denied access to medical services.
“It is a lifeline in modern age and it is difficult to survive without communication,” the doctors said.
“Under the prevailing circumstances, patients communicate their problems with the doctors on phone. The timely titration of medicines of critical diseases is done through mobile phones, which is life saving…Blocking all communication is a violation of civil liberties which are personal guarantees and freedoms that state cannot abridge,” Dr Nisar added.
The Mehbooba Mufti government has come under severe criticism for putting people of Kashmir to worst ever crackdown of sorts where from phone connectivity to internet almost everything including dissemination of information from newspapers lies suspended.

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