This is the tenth week of lockdown in Kashmir Valley, after central government’s unilateral scrapping of the Article 370 on August 5 which granted J&K its autonomous status under India’s constitution. Except for the private vehicles, nothing moves in Kashmir. Shops and business establishments remain shut, schools are closed and there is little attendance in government offices.
Pro-establishment politicians continue to be under detention. So are the separatist leaders. According to government figures over two hundred instances of protests took place across the Valley in two months which have left one person dead and more than a dozen injured.
The top state functionaries say the measures are needed to prevent the loss of lives. This reasoning presupposes that the phones and internet facilitate some groups to organize protests which then lead to loss of lives. Even the Governor Satya Pal Malik justified the continuation of the lockdown to save lives.
But this logic behind the communication blockade flies in the face of the reports of shortages of medicines, other essentials in many parts of Valley. And over and above this, 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.
Nobody knows what will happen once the curbs are removed or loosened. There is every possibility of an outbreak of protests, which could spread through the Valley. Two months on from the revocation of the Article 370, the anger on the street hasn’t diminished. The government’s apparent rationale that the drawn lockdown and communication blackout will help the shock of the extraordinary nature of August 5 to sink in hasn’t so far played out as expected. And that is perhaps why the government is still reluctant to lift the siege and end communication blockade.
There is also silver lining for the government though. The situation in the Valley hasn’t erupted in a sweeping groundswell as was also expected. The people have largely exercised restraint. This should have normally given the government confidence to relax curbs. But this hasn’t happened. And there are no signs that this may happen in near future. This has left people clueless about the future. Lack of internet is wreaking havoc with the economy. The Valley’s fledgling Information Technology Industry is as good as dead. So many people associated with the industry have been laid off. It is thus important that the government moves fast to restore the internet to at least get the aspects of the economy dependent on the service going again.