NEW DELHI: Forty-two days after a communications blockade was imposed in Kashmir, Afiya Shabir, a student at Amity University, was finally able to contact her family, on a landline phone, but she remains anxious.
“I have come out of the Valley for studies for the first time. When I was not able to speak to anyone from home, I felt anxious. After the landline phones started working, my anxiety has not ended. Mum keeps crying on the phone,” Shabir said.
“My father is a government employee and he has to go to work. My mother says that until he returns, she keeps worrying and waiting at the door to see him back. There is desperation. Connecting through a landline is arduous... sometimes it gets disconnected on its own and then she (mother) worries until she is able to call back and hear from me again,” Shabir told this newspaper.
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Mobile phone, internet and landline services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, the day before the central government revoked the provisions of Article 370 that gave the erstwhile state a special status under the Indian constitution.
The state administration later restored landline phone services, first in Jammu and then in Kashmir, starting with some areas of Srinagar.
Sheenam Mushtaq, a student at Delhi University, said she had been unable to call her family on a landline.
“My parents did not have a landline and had to go to a neighbour’s house to call me. They somehow managed to get a connection at home, but until now I have not been able to speak to them on our landline even once, though I have dialled the number many times. It’s a hassle, because sometimes they connect and I would be in a class,” said Mushtaq, adding that she had now told her parents to call only at specific times.
Some students have also had to face financial difficulties. Suhail Ahmed (name changed) was left with just Rs 54 in his bank account last week.
“I was bankrupt, with so many expenses lined up each day. It’s been just a few months since I shifted to a new city for studies. In the middle of the night, my flatmate became unwell, but we had no money to go to a hospital. The next day, suddenly my phone rang, and it was my dad calling from a landline phone in Srinagar. He had by chance checked my account at the bank and found that there was no money, so he transferred some money the same day. I can’t imagine how those who have no connection with their families manage,” Ahmed said.