It won’t be an exaggeration to say Kashmir is the worst conflict area in the world. Look anywhere else in the world where there are conflicts, there is no communication crack down. From Gaza to West Papua, from Hong Kong to the Yellow Vests in France….. the world knows what’s happening there. However in Jammu and Kashmir of India, we don’t know what’s happening there, since there is a complete clamp down on all communication systems.
Since the beginning of Countercurrents in 2002 I have covered many conflicts in different parts of the world, beginning with Iraq war. None as worse as this one in terms of communication crack down.
On August 5, 2019 the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union and dissolved the state and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. It is 25 days since now. Jammu and Kashmir is incommunicado. According to media reports there are no internet, no telephone, no cable tv. People have to line up for hours in the government offices, where there are a few telephones opened, to talk to their loved ones. They have to disclose the purpose of the conversation first, to be allowed to use the phone. People of Kashmir are completely cut off from rest of India and the rest of the world. Kashmiri students studying in different parts of India are running out of money. However a few landline connections have been restored in recent days in parts of Sri Nagar. It is very difficult to get through a call even where landline connections have been restored.
According to some media reports which are sneaking in, provisions are running out. Essential medicines are also running out.
A young doctor who wanted to communicate to the world the plight of Kashmiris who are in urgent need of medicines was whisked away by police minutes after he spoke out about the health crisis facing Kashmir because of the three-week-old government clampdown.
The Telegraph reported:
Omar Salim, a urologist at the Government Medical College, had appeared at Srinagar’s press enclave to speak to the media, wearing a doctor’s apron. He held a placard that said he was making a “request and not a protest”.
He had barely spoken for 10 minutes when the police arrived and whisked him away to an unknown location, making it clear the authorities would not tolerate any questioning of their actions.
Efforts to find out where the doctor had been taken were thwarted by the information blockade. Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal, the only official interface between the government and journalists, skipped the evening media briefing the second day running.
Omar had said the information blockade and the travel curbs were endangering the lives of patients, particularly those who needed dialysis or chemotherapy.
He said he did not know whether the restrictions had caused any deaths but he did know patients who had had to postpone their treatment.
“I have a patient who required chemotherapy on August 6. He came to us on August 24 but could not obtain the chemotherapy medicine,” Omar said.
“Another patient whose chemotherapy drug has to be obtained from Delhi was unable to place an order for the drug. His chemotherapy has been postponed indefinitely.”
Omar added: “There are patients who require three dialysis sessions every week but are coming only once a week. There are patients registered under insurance schemes who have to pay out of their own pockets (for every dialysis) costing Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800. It’s not a small sum for someone earning less than Rs 10,000.”
Omar said many patients are unable to make it to hospitals or to buy medicines because of the cash crunch at the banks.
“Most important, we have 15 lakh patients registered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. We are the number one state in India in terms of the scheme’s penetration. None of the beneficiaries are able to come and claim the benefits because there is no Internet and the card system is defunct,” he said.
“(People registered with) many other health insurance schemes, like those for textile industry labourers, cannot claim the benefit because of the lack of access.”
Omar urged the government to restore the landline connections at all the hospitals and clinical establishments to avoid “disadvantage to the patients”.
The government had suspended all mobile, Internet and landline connectivity, although many landline connections have been restored in recent days.
“If patients don’t receive dialysis, they will die. If cancer patients don’t receive chemotherapy, they will die. Those patients who can’t be operated on can die,” he said.
Due to the communication breakdown, all the news papers and websites in the Kashmir valley have suspended publication.
Irfan Malik, a correspondent with the Greater Kashmir newspaper was apprehended by security forces on August 14 night but was released by officials s after signing a bond.
In a shocking act India’s Media watch dog, The Press Council of India (PCI) moved the Supreme Court supporting the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to impose restrictions on communication in the state following the abrogation of Article 370. The council, a statutory body led by a former Supreme Court judge and meant to preserve freedom of the Press in the democracy, said the basic journalistic code of conduct framed by it required the media to indulge in self-regulation while reporting on subjects that may harm State interests.
The council, headed by Justice (retired) C.K. Prasad, has filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking to intervene in a writ petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Kashmir Times. Ms. Bhasin had challenged the state of prolonged and intense media restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre blunted Article 370 and scrapped the special rights and privileges enjoyed by the people of Jammu and Kashmir since 1954.
In Jammu and Kashmir three former Chief Ministers, 40 former ministers are under house arrest. More than 4000 people are detained including leaders of Chamber of Commerce.
On 18th August Deccan Chronicle Headlined, Forces deploy 1 million to guard every inch of Kashmir valley
Close to 9.5 lakh personnel from the Army, paramilitary and special forces besides Indian Air Force are guarding every inch of Kashmir Valley amid heightened tensions bet-ween India and Pakistan post the scrapping of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir.
While majority of forces were stationed in the Valley, the Centre, over the last month has deployed over 1.75 lakh additional personnel — which is unprecedented in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to 2011 census, Jammu and Kashmir population is 12.5 million. Which means, a soldier for every 12 citizen of the troubled Kashmir.
On 24th of this month opposition leaders under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi went to Srinagar to find out the situation in the valley. They were detained in the Srinagar airport and were sent back to Delhi.
Hong Kong protest is into its 19th week. Millions are marching in the street. There is no communication crack down or unlawful force on the protesters. France’s Yellow Vest protest is into its 40th week. There also there is no communication crack down. Even in Gaza even when the heaviest bombardment was going on there was no communication crack down. Why is it in Kashmir?
There are reports that the Israeli army is training Indian soldiers in counter terrorism. It seems that Israeli army has come to a stage that it has to learn lessons from Indian army. By the way, India is the largest democracy in the world!
Binu Mathew is the Editor of Countercurrents.org