As Nawaz Khan* stepped out of the Delhi airport, he straight away walked to the prepaid Taxi booth. The noise of vehicles, chit chat on the road side, people greeting each other and bidding goodbyes made Khan a little uncomfortable. “I have come from Kashmir where everything is locked down. The normalcy in Delhi is sickening for me. May be, it is the effect of the shutdown. I can’t even inform my wife that I have reached. Kashmir gov khatam (Kashmir is finished.),” said misty-eyed Nawaz.
Under the cloak of “normalcy” perpetuated by the Indian government, the lockdown and communication blockade in Kashmir continues and has entered 21st day. While all means of communications have been shut down, Kashmiris have found newer ways to narrate their ordeal. Kashmiris are stepping out of the Valley to share the stories of their tribulations. In a recent episode, when delegation of opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sitaram Yechury attempted to enter Srinagar and were sent back to Delhi, a Kashmiri woman approached them to narrate her story. “Little kids are not allowed to step out of their houses. My brother is a heart patient. We are under stress in all ways,” said the women seen in a viral video.
NewsClick met many Kashmiris who reached Delhi and were eager to share their stories. A Kashmiri, Nawaz Khan* (name changed), 35, reached Delhi after it became impossible for him to sit quietly at home. Speaking to NewsClick, Khan said, “Halat itne kharab hai ki koi baat bhi karein toh usko aandhar daalte hai. Baat karne ki bhi aazadi nahi hai (The situation is so that even if you simply talk, you will be arrested. We don’t have the freedom to even talk). Kashmir gives impression of an army colony now. They (army and police) are picking up boys based on mere suspicion.”
A day ago, governor Satya Pal Malik dismissed reports citing shortage of medical supplies and essential food items in the state. Malik said, “There is no shortage of essential commodities and medicines in Kashmir. In fact, we delivered meat, vegetables and eggs to people’s houses on Eid.”
Khan refuted this claim. “I live in a village in South Kashmir and I can speak for my village. There is shortage of essentials. Baby food, diapers, petrol is not available. I don’t know what the governor is talking about. ATMs are closed. Not just food, people are short of money as well,” he said.
As per Kashmiris who have travelled to the national capital, anger is simmering and a volcano is waiting to be erupted. Another Kashmiri, who has been living in Delhi for the past two days, said, “It was getting difficult for me to live in Kashmir. How long can we be the silent spectators? People are angry, very angry. You know what? I always favoured the Indian state. I always said that the future of Kashmir is with India. For this, I was even termed as mukhbir in my locality. Now it has become difficult for me to look into the eyes of my neighbours, let alone talk. This is betrayal by the Indian state.”
Meanwhile, a few Kashmiris confided in Newsclick about the new ways of display of resistance. “In my village, if someone opens the shop in the evening, the villagers force him to shut it down. Now, when all means of dissent have been curbed, this is the only way to register their protest. People are knocking the doors of the BJP members for help. While doing so, they feel insulted and humiliated. Army is patrolling on a regular basis. I don’t think the government is going to lift the blockade for next 15-20 days. Don’t go by our silence. It is the sign of impending doom.”
With communications and the movement curbed, people could be seen sitting on the parapets of the closed shops, discussing what the future has for them. “Whenever Army vehicles passes by, the men in uniforms hurl expletives,” a student at Delhi University said.
“That is what my family has been able to tell me on a call. They say that the landlines are working, but the voice breaks. One can’t hear clearly. In villages, like mine, it’s more so. In the era of mobile phones, who even has landlines?” they questioned.
With a sleight of hand, the Indian government revoked the last string of the autonomy given to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The decision that carved the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh – was announced in Parliament on August 5. Since then, Kashmir is under complete communication blockade and lockdown. In contrast, normalcy has sprung back in a few areas of Jammu while other districts including Chenab valley, Pir Panjal, Poonch remain under communication blackout.