Kashmir was put into a lockdown when the Centre on August 5 hollowed out Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and divided the state into two Union Territories. The Centre also revoked Article 35A, which granted certain specific rights, including the right to own land, to permanent residents of the state. As Kashmir enters the 37th day of clampdown, the rhythms of daily life have been completely altered.
While telephone landlines have started ringing again, calls often do not go through. Mobile and internet connections remain blocked across the Valley. While restrictions on movement have been eased, the Valley is punctuated by security checkpoints. Shops are shut and most public transport is off the roads because of a civil shutdown to protest the government’s decision. Moreover, hundreds of people have been detained, from political leaders to lawyers and businessmen to youth, many of them minors, considered potential stone pelters by the authorities.
The clampdown has also affected everyday life in other ways. While residents of the Valley remain cut off from basic services, the restrictions have also disrupted the government machinery.
Here are five such instances in which this has happened.
Failing healthcare services
The Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana or National Health Protection Mission, which started in September 2018, provides free health services of up to Rs 5 lakh for people below the poverty line. In July, the Economic Times reported that Jammu and Kashmir was among the states with a high number of enrolments under the scheme.
Going by recent reports, the scheme has now been severely hampered. On September 6, Hindu Business Line reported that 2,424 cases had been registered under the scheme in Jammu and Kashmir in August, down from 6,144 cases in June and 7,391 cases in July.
On the same day, IndiaSpend reported that patients could not access free healthcare services under the scheme because government and private hospitals could not register and process claims without internet connectivity. Medical equipment such as MRI machines were also unable to function without software updates, leading to surgeries being delayed.
Meanwhile, chemists in the Valley said they were running low on medicines, although the government denied these claims.
The state administration ordered schools, colleges and other educational institutions to reopen on August 18 but reports suggest that children did not attend classes because of fears for their safety.
Educational institutions run by government, including the prominent National Institute of Technology in Srinagar, were also affected. The Indian Express reported on September 6 that the Union ministry of human resource development was unable to contact the institution’s director. They wanted to determine the right time to reopen the institute, which has not held classes since August 5.
“Administrative work is going on but there are no students,” the director of the institute, Rakesh Sehgal told Scroll.in. Sehgal said the semester started on August 1. Students attended classes for three days till the clampdown on the night of August 4. “We cannot sacrifice the safety of students,” he said. “Till communications get restored, it is not practical for 3,000 students to come.”
Sehgal also said that he had not received any directions from the ministry of human resource development. “We are also trying to contact the Home Ministry to know what could be a conducive time to reopen the institute,” he said. “I have held meetings with the staff and we have decided that when the institute reopens we will sacrifice our Saturdays and Sundays to catch up with the syllabus. We do not want the students to face any problems.”
For weeks, government offices were deserted. On August 23, The Indian Express reported that attendance in government offices had dropped to 50-60%, according to officials. In the early days of the lockdown, employees had found it hard to commute because of the restriction on movement. They must still negotiate checkpoints and knots of angry protestors amid disruptions in public transport.
As offocial curfews gave way to the civil shutdown, posters in the Valley urged government employees to stay away from work. According to the Indian Express report, some said that they dressed informally to avoid being identified as government employees going to work. Even those who did manage to make the trip sat in empty offices as the public stayed away.
Outside the Valley, it was reported on August 31, that 58 employees in Rajouri district had been suspended for being absent from work. This happened after a team of officers conducted a surprise inspection at 99 government offices across the border district.
Cricketers from the Valley missed out on practice sessions for the approaching cricket season. As most communication services were suspended, the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association found it difficulty to contact players in the Valley to get them to attend training camps. The association decided to place advertisements on local television channels to communicate with the state’s cricketers, The Indian Express reported on August 28.
The state’s cricket association is also a member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. On September 5, it was reported that cricketers from Jammu and Kashmir had started training in Vadodara in Gujarat.
Law and disorder
Communication lines in the Valley were ostensibly cut off to maintain law and order. But in one case, at least, the blackout shortcircuited the processes of the law. In 2017, a young Kashmiri actor had filed a case of sexual harassment with the Mumbai police. Now, the Mumbai police say they are unable to contact the actor, either on the phone or through the internet, to testify in the case. The police also said it had sent the witness a letter. But postal services in Jammu and Kashmir have also been suspended.