CHENNAI: Almost a month after Jammu and Kashmir was made a Union Territory, things have not been back to normal in the valley claim Kashmiris living in the city.
“When I spoke to my mother after 10 days, she cried for the first two minutes. After that, she had to hang up within 30 seconds. The police snatched the phone,’’ claims Ijaz Ahmed (30), a Kashmiri in Chennai.
It is almost a month since the Centre split Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories. Though channels and official statements say communication and normalcy have returned, Kashmiris in Chennai who spoke to their families claim it has come with a cost - to not give the ‘actual account.’
Ijaz, who spoke to his family only twice in the last 25 days, says families in Kashmir need to visit police stations to make calls.
"Police keep a watch on what information the locals pass on to their families. My mother told me she is running out of medicines and food. That’s the best way she could convey ‘all is not okay’,’’ says Ijaz. “With medical shops and food outlets remaining closed, I have sent medicines with my friend who went to Kashmir. I do not know if he will reach my family, but I had to try,” he said.
As some travel agencies have started operating in Kashmir, residents communicate through them. However, a majority depend on common landline phones, which the Kashmiris say do not work. ‘’They wait for hours to talk to family members, but only get one or two minutes to talk,’’ he said adding that since the phone lines are in police stations, the men are reluctant to visit and make calls, as they fear they would be arrested for no reason.
Only a few days ago, 71-year-old Abdul Rahman returned to Chennai with his grandson.
"Only in posh areas such as Rajbagh, people go out for walks. Even when schools are open, parents are scared to send their children fearing they might get hit by pellets or get held by police,’’ he said.
In the past 10 days, Rahman said, many clashes had occurred in Kashmir. A sixteen-year-old in Soura, a village in Kashmir, had carved the road out so that army vehicles cannot come inside. ‘’It is one way of guarding our society,’’ he said.
Rahman said that a small instance of stone-throwing is enough for police to take all boys of the village. "Seeing that, other parents get protective of their children,’’ he said.
However, Kashmiris say they did not have problems in transferring money to their home, as ATMs are working fine.