Srinagar: It was an emotional reunion for Imran Ahmad with his family. The 32-year-old sells Kashmir handicrafts in Mumbai and returned home to Hawal here on Monday.
He had been unable to get in touch with his family in Kashmir since a fortnight, after security curbs and a communication blockade was imposed in the state following the scrapping of Article 370 that granted special status to Kashmir within the Indian union. Ahmad broke down on seeing his ageing parents, and tightly hugged his two and three year old nephews.
He is getting married next week. But the communication blackout has complicated his wedding arrangements. While most weddings in Kashmir stand cancelled given the situation, Ahmad does not intend to do so. Instead, he plans to have low key celebrations.
"Life has become too difficult without communication. In a sad situation like this, how can one even think of celebration? It is going to be a very simple affair," said Ahmad. Ahmad's neighbours are also angry. "This has never happened in Kashmir, we have been caged," lamented Ghulam Mohiuddin.
Others said the gag order was only fuelling anger. "It is triggering frustration in Kashmir and is a great provocation for the people," said Mohammad Hafeez. The government calls the communication blockade "temporary" and has promised restoration of all landline connections. "Out of 96,000 landlines in the state, 73,000 have started functioning," said government spokesperson Rohit Kansal.
But some like Abdul Majeed, a resident of Firdousabad in Batamlloo area of Srinagar, complain that the landlines which were restored a couple of days ago, have stopped working altogether. "It is a joke, the landlines were restored in our area but were snapped in a matter of few hours. The radio silence is becoming unbearable," he said.
The government says it is abreast of the situation and the matter is being taken up with service provider BSNL for quick redressal. "We have received complaints that some landlines have stopped working, we have taken it up with the BSNL, they have some capacity constraints, but they are working on it and as per our promise all the landlines will be restored," Kansal added. But those assurances can only instil confidence when communication lines open up in Kashmir and people sense some actual relief on the ground.