New Delhi: Omair Bhat is a very worried man. A student in New Delhi, Bhat has family in Srinagar and hasn’t spoken to them since the Modi government cut off all communication in Jammu and Kashmir before revoking its special status Monday.
Bhat is particularly worried about his grandfather, who he last saw in July when he was brought home after a major heart attack. Bhat says he has no way of knowing if his grandfather is okay or if “everything happening in Kashmir has further aggravated his stress”.
“The last time (it was difficult) to get in touch with my family was in 2014 when floods hit the state, but even then I could at least get through to them via the landline,” Bhat told ThePrint. “Today, even that isn’t possible. I haven’t spoken to them in three days and I am particularly worried about my ailing grandfather.”
Bhat says his grandfather had an appointment with the doctor scheduled for Monday “but I am pretty sure he wasn’t able to make it given the curfew”.
Junaid Parray, 29, went to Srinagar to visit his family for a long vacation on 23 July but had to cut it short when he realised things were going downhill.
“I was supposed to stay with my family until Eid (which falls on 12 August) but I decided to leave Monday after all mobile and landline networks stopped working,” Parray told ThePrint.
Parray said he saw how the “deployment of security forces increased and the internet was disconnected”.
“I left, but many from my extended family are still there. I am terrified for them,” he said.
It’s a near similar tale for a number of Kashmiris living outside the state ever since the central government imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in Srinagar and cut off mobile, broadband internet, landline and cable TV services in the region Sunday night.
The next day, the Modi government set in motion the decision to repeal Articles 370 and 35A and bifurcate the state.
‘Not prepared for this to be the final goodbye’
Shoaib, 18, from Srinagar, who moved to Noida just two weeks ago for undergraduate studies at Amity University, said he was on the verge of a breakdown since he hadn’t spoken to his parents in three days.
“This is the first time that I am living away from my parents, and I am growing increasingly restless as I haven’t heard a word from them in 72 hours,” he said. “How am I supposed to concentrate on my studies?”
J.P. Singh, whose family lives in Tral in Pulwama, echoed similar sentiments. He is used to speaking to his parents every morning and every evening.
“We are a very close-knit family, but not being able to speak to them these past few days has taken a serious toll on me,” Singh told ThePrint. “I am struggling to focus on my work as well.”
Many young people from the Valley fear that the last time they spoke to their families, could well be the last time ever.
Mahoor Shaw, who works in Delhi, recalled the last conversation she had with her father at 11:30 pm Sunday. “Unlike me, he was hopeful,” she said. “He kept saying ‘we have gone through worse’ because he lived through the 90s.”
Shaw only prays that it wasn’t their final goodbye. “I have only read about final goodbyes in history books of the world war; I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience it personally.”
‘This govt doesn’t care about what I have to say’
Umar Rauf, a 32-year-old engineer at a Bengaluru start-up, said he is troubled because he “doesn’t feel heard”.
“I don’t think the government cares about what I or other Kashmiris have to say. I have decided to take a step back and look at how all these developments will impact my life personally,” he said.
“I may even need to shift my family from Srinagar to some other part of the country given the circumstances. I will basically be uprooting their lives given how they have only lived in Srinagar all their lives.”
Muzamil Jaleel, the deputy editor at The Indian Express, was one of the first journalists to report about the situation on the ground. “I have just come to Delhi from Srinagar. It is worse than in 1846. Srinagar is a city of soldiers and spools of concertina wire,” he wrote on Facebook. “Phones – mobiles and landlines – have been disconnected. Internet is off. There is no money in ATMs. A very strict curfew has been imposed across Kashmir.
“Kashmir has been turned invisible even inside Kashmir,” he added
Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal also took to Facebook Wednesday giving an update of the situation. “Kashmir is experiencing an unprecedented lock-down… It was not possible to reach Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Sajad Lone or send a message to them.”
Referring to the abrogation of Article 370, Faesal wrote “People are in shock. Numb. Yet to make sense of what befell them. Everyone is mourning what we lost.”