• A Silent Crisis for Kashmiris Living Outside the Valley

    Students outside Kashmir are out of touch and running out of support

    Muhammad Shoaib and Fayiq Rashid

    September 9, 2019

    NEW DELHI: On August 5, the government of India and Parliament revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. A strict curfew was imposed in both regions to clamp down on any unwanted protest, as well as a gag on all means of communication: mobile phones, internet, broadband, and even for the first time on landline services.

    In Jammu the restrictions were lifted on August 10 and communication has been restored in a phased manner, but in Kashmir no such imitative has been taken so far. The Kashmir valley remains cut off from the rest of the world for 35 consecutive days.

    The communications gag is one of the most difficult issues Kashmiri people are facing. Gravely affected due to the communication blockade are the students pursuing education outside Kashmir, with most of them running out of money with each passing day. Some students on an anonymous basis agreed to share their uncertainty and pain due to the communication gag.

    Two Kashmiri students in Delhi waiting desperately for a phone call from their families

    Hina (name changed) who hails from central Kashmir is currently pursuing her PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi. She seems to be restless: it’s been more than three weeks since she last spoke with her mother in Kashmir, and with each passing day she is getting more anxious.

    With moist eyes she says, “I am much more concerned about my grandparents than parents as from childhood I have been very close to them. Another reason for my worry is their old age. They have always been very emotional about my decision to stay so far from home.”

    Another concern for Hina is her younger brother who is in his teenage years, as Indian security forces are reportedly conducting mass arrests to preempt any protest that may occur. Most often arrested by the security forces are teenage boys, thoughts which give Hina sleepless nights.

    Hina’s elder sister is getting married by end September, and at home they had made a lot of plans as this was the first marriage from her generation. But now she is clueless about how the marriage will take place as Kashmir remains under curfew.

    With a pause she says “Yesterday as I finished my morning prayers, I realised my problems are quite basic, which most Kashmiris are facing this time, and my biggest worry is the future of the whole of Kashmir which seems to be dark.”

    But with some slight positivity she says this too shall pass, and leaves for her class.

    Nabeel Andrabi, a young Kashmiri in his mid-twenties who works in an MNC in Dublin, hasn’t slept properly since August 5. Andrabi, who hails from Pulwama, has not been able to contact his parents due to the communication blockade imposed by the government.

    He says, “In times where attempts are being made to try and communicate with extraterrestrial beings, it has been more than 23 days since I last communicated with my family. What’s even more outrageous is that the authorities are trying to justify it as a security concern.

    “My nights are marred with sleeplessness and during the day I try every possible way to get in touch with my family in Kashmir. A friend of mine here got the news about her father’s death four days after he had passed away. This is completely inhumane. This will remain etched in the memories of our generation for years.”

    Like any other Kashmiri, Andrabi is concerned about future of Kashmir. What scares him is the thought of what will happen when the curfew is withdrawn, Kashmir right now being like a keg of gunpowder which can explode anytime, the silence before the storm.

    He concludes by saying, “Life away from home has turned into a nightmare, I spend every minute in restlessness and anticipation of a call from my family.”

    Whenever I miss my mother, I read our old conversation that gives me some relief”

    For Zakir these have been the toughest and most challenging days of his life. He belongs to the Old City of Srinagar known as a hub of resistance. Zakir, who had recently moved to Australia to pursue his higher education, has not been able to contact his parents in Kashmir since the government-imposed curfew and communication blockade in the region.

    He quotes Jean-Paul Sartre who described the deteriorating relationship between tormentors and the tormented: “The end of communications is the beginning of all violence; where communication stops, beating, burning and hanging takes place.”

    He further says, “Every day on my way to university I used to call my mother in Kashmir. This morning as an involuntary action, I took out my phone and dialled her number only to stop, to the realisation that the phone lines were dead and no internet.”

    Zakir does not want his parents to have to go to a police station or any government office to call him. “My parents are tough, I know my mother would be saying, khudayas chu hawale, kul e kashir ken shueran saan” – May God protect him and every other Kashmiri child – and he concludes by responding, “May God be with the mothers of my homeland.”

    “Keeping all my worries aside, I don’t let them affect my studies”

     

    The communication gag has affected Zakir’s health badly


    First published in The Citizen.

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