Lift the Siege

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For twelve consecutive days after the mass protests broke out following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani in a controversial encounter with security forces, Kashmir has been under a strict 24X7 curfew. And with every day, rather than offer some relaxation to the more than 7 million people under an unprecedented lockdown, the government is only further toughening the security measures. It is worse in South Kashmir which has witnessed the largest and the most demonstrative public display of the anger and grief over Burhan’s death.   In Srinagar, the forces have been deployed in strength to thwart attempts by the youth to take out protests. The barbed wires have been strung across the major road intersections and the entry points into the city to prevent assembly of the people. Centre has sent additional  2000 troops of the CRPF to tide over the situation. This is over and above the 2000 troops that were dispatched in the first flush of the unrest last week. About 60 battalions of the CRPF, accounting sixty thousand personnel, are already in Valley as part of the counter-insurgency grid.  If anything, this yet again underscores the fact that the only way, the  centre and the state government seek to reign in the ongoing turbulence in Kashmir is through force.  

And as our today’s lead opinion makes it amply clear, the toll that the heavy-handed security response has taken is grim: 47 dead and counting, over 5000 injured, 100 staring at a complete or partial loss of eye sight and another 50 hit by bullets likely to be maimed for the rest of their lives. But for the complete lockdown, many more disturbing revelations of the human rights violations are likely to come to the fore. Lack of communication is so effective and comprehensive that one of our senior editors has no information about his family after leaving home to visit their kin in South Kashmir a day after Eid-ul-Fitr.

 If this government can still boast of some efficiency in any aspect of its governance, it is in ensuring the imprisonment of a predominant majority of the population in Valley – except those who despite it all dare to come out and protest and in retaliation have been killed, blinded and maimed.

What is more, the State Government has worsened the situation by a communication blockade, again unprecedented in nature. Ever since the blackout was implemented, no relaxation has been extended. Only BSNL postpaid and the broadband internet connection is working and that too mainly in Srinagar. The reason is their very low penetration in Valley. 

There could hardly be a precedent of such sweeping crackdown on the public freedoms anywhere in the world. It is like taking an entire population a prisoner and then forgetting about them. Does Government have no concern for the hundreds of patients who need medicines or may be need to be ferried to hospitals. There is shortage of baby food, other essentials in many parts of Valley. And over and above this all, people have no way to contact their loved ones in hospitals, no way to visit them. Kashmiris living outside have similarly no way to connect with their families, nor the people in Valley itself have any means to enquire the well-being of their kin in different parts of the state, much like one of our senior editors, who is yet to hear back from his family which had gone to visit their kin  in South Kashmir.

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