Communication Restored in Kashmir to Mixed Reactions
“I just spoke to my parents and it is a good thing but this shouldn’t be taken as benevolence on the government’s part because this is a fundamental right of people so their restoring it should not be celebrated,” Juveria Syed, who is from Srinagar and is studying in Delhi for the last four years, tells SheThePeople.TV.
The 72-day-long communication blockage in the valley of Kashmir has come to a partial end as the government restores postpaid mobile services on all networks today (October 14). While the move has brought relief to the people of Kashmir, it has not come without several hassles in terms of telecommunication offices being closed, thus keeping them from paying their bills, and prepaid services and mobile internet still blocked, etc. With the postpaid services back to roll, around 40 lakh postpaid mobile phones have become operational. This is the first time Kashmiris have been able to connect with each other through phones, with people living in the valley and outside it after the central government abrogated Section 370 and Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir and Leh on August 5.
Syed does believe it is a “welcome” move. However, she differs from the idea that now things in Kashmir will inch towards normalcy.
- This shouldn’t be taken as benevolence on the government’s part because this is a fundamental right of people so their restoring it should not be celebrated – Juveria Syed.
- While communication has been restored but people are not able to use their phones because the telecommunication offices are closed – Ridwana Sanam.
- The communication barrier also impacted the usual business of Kashmiris living in the valley.
- People are jovial and they are making merry as if they have got something big.
Syed recounts that her parents have mostly asked her to recharge the phones because most of their bills were pending. “It is a frantic wave of recharging and checking which phones are working but we have definitely been able to contact,” she adds. Earlier, when Syed, a student of Stephens College of Delhi University, spoke to us, she talked about how the monetary exchange between her parents and herself had become a difficulty since she lives in Delhi alone and depends on her parents for her financial needs. On this, she now says, “There is still not a permanent solution to this and it depends on the area you are living in, in Kashmir. People living in more privileged areas like Srinagar can still use ATMs but I am not sure about the villages on the outskirts. Since the mobile services have just been restored, we are also just starting to get information about Kashmir.”
This shouldn’t be taken as benevolence on the government’s part because this is a fundamental right of people so their restoring it should not be celebrated. – Juveria Syed
Telecomm Offices Closed
Dr Ridwana Sanam weighs in on the issues that still continue to block the communication despite the fact that the government has opened up the lines. “While communication has been restored but people are not able to use their phones because the telecommunication offices are closed, obstructing them from paying their bills. If they were going to restore communication then the government should have kept the Telecomm. offices open so people can at least use the services they are bestowed with. The government has restored the communication but it is more like a formality,” she explains.
“Administration should have planned it first, in a way that the common person does not feel disturbed. Even the people who are outside of Kashmir are not able to pay their relatives’ bills who are back in the valley since the code of J&K isn’t appearing in the online form. It is still a stressful event and it hasn’t solved the problem of the people of Kashmir,” she adds. Sanam contested in the Lok Sabha election 2019 as an independent candidate from Anantnag district in Kashmir. She is also an entrepreneur and a physiotherapist who runs an online platform KRV healthcare.
Impact of Restoring Communication
Talking about what the restoration of communication means for the people there and how impactful it is, Sabbah Haji, who runs Haji Public School in Doda village on the outskirts of Kashmir and falls in the Jammu province, says, “Hardly anybody has landlines except the very rich people who need broadband and only a small population of J&K owns postpaid. I have Kashmiri teachers here who have postpaid numbers and one or two calls have gone through but I am not sure which networks and whether everything else is working or not.”
She notes that the government opened phone lines in Doda about a month ago.
However, Haji says that communication is just one part of the civil rights breached by the government. “The problems are to the extent that if there is a death in the family, one cannot even call anyone because of the blackout. That is how bad it was and there have been cases like these. A man died in my village and not a single member of his family could attend the funeral because they were elsewhere and we could not call them,” she adds saying that it is a very small infringement compared to the whole deal that has happened. “We are very used to internet blockages without any prior information and in terms of communication clampdown in this day and age, I think, that it is a bit much.”
The communication barrier also impacted the business of Kashmiris living in the valley. Shedding some light on this, journalist Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil who works for Republic TV informs, “In the 21st century when we talk about Digital India, there are many people here who sell their goods online but due to the blockage, those people suffered immensely because these days we have various ways of digital transaction apps so people didn’t have to wait for a month to get their amount. This is why the business community suffered.”
She also weighed in on how the radio industry and other media industry endured for being dependent on communication services for a large part of their work.”
Administration should have planned it first, in a way that the common person does not feel disturbed. – Dr Ridwana Sanam
First Step Towards Normalcy
But in her opinion, the reinstating of communication in the valley will start to bring things back to normal in Kashmir. “Since the postpaid communication is back, it is more like a festive feeling we are witnessing. People are jovial and they are making merry as if they have got something big. Being able to speak to one’s relatives, siblings etc. after two months now is a big deal for them. This is the first time after the decision, I am seeing 80 percent private transports back on the roads so this is really a healthy move. This will also boost the tourism sector in Kashmir.”
Sanam also shares the perspective of the central government and says, “They must be thinking of not triggering crisis and stress in the valley and they are taking care of it that’s why they did what they had to do. I understand that but harassing people by keeping the communication blocked was no solution because anyway, they had to open it someday.”
People were excited about it initially but now they feel stressed because of the way it has been done, Sanam interjects.
Picture credit- Livemint