The Kashmir Press Club on Monday criticised the “unprecedented communication shutdown” in the state. The press club urged authorities to immediately lift the ban on mobile and internet to enable the media to function without any hassle in the Valley.

Restrictions have been in place in the state for 50 days now. They were imposed on August 5, when the Union government abrogated the state’s special status under Article 370 of Constitution.

Jammu and Kashmir has been under a curfew-like situation since then, and mainstream politicians such as National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, the party’s leader Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti are in detention. Restrictions are being lifted gradually, and according to the government and the Army life is back to normal in many parts of the state.

The blackout of mobile telephones and internet has “severely hampered” the work of journalists, the press club said. “Journalists are handicapped and unable to get confirmation about ground situation due to this communication blockade,” it added. “The restrictions are totally unwarranted and unreasonable [and] aimed at gagging the Kashmir press.”

Since the restrictions were imposed, journalists have only been able to access internet at the government-run media centre in Srinagar.

“There have been several reminders from the club to the government for freeing communication of newspaper offices, journalists and the club itself,” the press club added in its statement. “But an inordinate delay in restoring the communication confirms the misgiving that the government doesn’t intend to provide an enabling atmosphere for the media to operate in the Valley.”

Earlier in the day, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat dismissed reports of a clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, and claimed it was part of terrorists’ propaganda. The army chief claimed that violent episodes were curbed and militants were kept at bay because of the disruption in their communication with handlers in Pakistan.

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