Mir Shahnawaz, who lives in the Barbarshah area of Srinagar, is not able to reach out to dealers outside the state to carry out his shawl business due to the breakdown of cell-phone networks across Kashmir. The 25-year-old would visit different parts of country, but is now stuck at home. Due to the communication blockade in Kashmir, people like Shahanawaz have faced the brunt of the unrest, with some not even able to locate their family members.
The Kashmir shutdown is now into its 10th day, and the state government has not only shown its inability to control the situation but the continuous blockade of cell-phone services and the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway have also ensured that people are facing a grave crisis. The Valley remains short of essential commodities and as the clampdown intensifies, there is a real threat that families may not be able to reach out to their members.
Except for State-run BSNL, none of the telecom providers have been allowed to operate their services. Only the post-paid cell phone network of BSNL and the landline services are functioning, but in the North Kashmir areas of Baramulla and Kupwara, which have seen civilian deaths, even they remain snapped.
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Although the death toll has been higher in South Kashmir, the unrest in Kupwara due to the civilian killings for the last two days has ensured that the Valley remains simmering. There have been sporadic incidents of stone pelting reported in Srinagar city as well, while a youth was killed earlier in the outskirts of Tengpora, triggering clashes between forces and the residents here.
Manzoor Ahmad Beg, 41, is not able to contact his family at Punzoo in Tral, among the most restive areas of Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani. Manzoor works as a cook in Srinagar but has not even been able to visit his family for the last seven days. He came to Srinagar on Friday, the second day of Eid, and subsequently Kashmir has witnessed shutdown and the massive security restrictions.
Due to the communication breakdown, the tourism trade has also taken a massive hit while e-commerce services have been completely shut. President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, said the breakdown of the cell phone services have impacted tourism and e-commerce businesses. “Companies dealing with e-commerce have not been able to transact business due to the breakdown of internet and cell phone services,” he said.
Wasim Ahmad, a youngster from Maisuma, said he doesn’t drive on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway after the attacks on Kashmiri drivers in the Amarnath land row agitation and during a row over the beef ban. “We ferry all sorts of commodities from Jammu to Srinagar. But due to the lack of mobile service and the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway, I couldn’t operate on the highway,” he said.
A police head constable, Arshad Ahmad of Shopian, said that he couldn’t contact his family earlier and they had to travel from the restive South Kashmir area to reach here and find him. “I work on guard duty with a protected person and I’m put up at the Srinagar police lines. Due to the lack of phone network, I couldn’t reach out to my family. My brother and uncle came to Srinagar today to ask for my well-being. They were relieved after knowing that there was no problem,” he said.