From missing their college admissions to thesis deadlines, Kashmiri youth feel helpless before New Delhi's draconian measure of imposing curfew and internet gag in India-administered Kashmir for over 70 consecutive days.
A Phd scholar at Aligrah University in north India's Uttar Pradesh state received a phone call from his friend in Saudi Arabia at five o'clock on a recent August morning. After exchanging pleasantries in their native Kashmiri language the caller from Saudi asked his scholar friend whether he knew his uncle had died in Kashmir a week ago.
“He asked me if the news of my uncle’s demise was true. I had no clue because there's a communication clampdown in Kashmir. I’d not spoken to my family since August 5,” the scholar said, insisting that he should not be identified as he fears the police reprisal.
His uncle suffered from a rare form of bone cancer. “Emotionally, I am shattered. I was very close to my uncle. I was in a dilemma — whether to mourn his death or not.”
A week later, the scholar received another phone call informing him about the death of his one year old cousin.
“One of my friends called from the UK and told me that my cousin has died. Her parents couldn't contact doctors in time because of the communication shutdown,” the scholar said.
The embargo on communication continued for over 70 days until postpaid mobile services were resumed on October 14. In total, there have been 176 internet shutdowns in Kashmir since last eight years. In 2019, the government switched off phone and services for 51 times.
Health services are severely affected. There is a shortage of life saving drugs as the internet shutdown makes it difficult for chemists to place online orders and receive deliveries on time.
On August 26, the Indian police arrested Omar Salim, a urologist at Government Medical College Srinagar, soon after he gave a 10-minute interview to BBC, explaining the human impact of India's military siege.
TRT World photographed several Kashmiri youth in Delhi to describe how they are dealing with their psychological trauma caused by a total communication shutdown and military curfew in their home state Kashmir.
Among the Kashmiri diaspora, it's the student community that suffered the most. Their parents could not send them monthly stipends and in many cases yearly tuition fee because of the curfew and communication gag in Kashmir. However, a voluntary trust JKS (Jammu & Kashmir Scientists) founded by a group of Kashmiri scientists and academics played a key role in providing monetary help to financially broke students. Khalid, a volunteer coordinator of the JKS, spoke about the problems of Kashmiri students living in Delhi.
“We received requests for monetary help from Kashmiri students almost from every part of India — Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Aligarh, and elsewhere. Even from Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, and other foreign countries as well,” said Khalid, who lives in India's capital city New Delhi.
“There was a multitude of students, especially in Delhi, unable to pay their rents on time, because they could not contact their families for monetary help. Some of them were even evicted. Some were sick. They reached out to us and we managed to help them, while promising them their identities will be kept anonymous,” he added.
Faika, 23, came to Delhi in the last week of August. She wanted to get an admission for her Masters in psychology at a Delhi based university. After completing her paperwork, she had to pay the admission fees. As the restrictions in Kashmir lasted for the month of August and still continue in several parts of the region, her mother couldn't wire her the money for admission fees due to the lockdown. She also heard her mother was suffering from depression. Just two days before the university closed admissions, she had to fly back to Srinagar to collect the money and then take another flight to New Delhi.
“After I returned, I moved from pillar to post and pleaded the University authorities to offer me an extension. Luckily they provided me an extension and after an excruciating struggle I managed to get through,” Faika said.
The Mountain Ink, a Srinagar based literary magazine, moved its editorial staff to New Delhi in order to print its first issue.
“Clampdown on communication is a tragedy. People have been pushed to dark ages in Kashmir,” said Mohammad Nadeem, an editor at The Mountain Ink.