The communication blackout in Kashmir valley has effectively disconnected nearly 8 million people from the rest of the world after Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the veteran Kashmiri leader, succumbed to prolonged illness last night. 

For Kashmiris living outside the region, including students, the disconnection has triggered the trauma of the August 2019 clampdown and spiralled them into uncertainty. “My brain is exploding right now. I cannot understand what is happening,” said a 23-year-old Kashmiri, living in New Delhi. 

She told The Kashmir Walla that she had woken up this morning to an “unexpected blackout” in Kashmir. “I tried calling through every channel but I cannot connect. I’m constantly trying,” she said, with a sigh. “I’m just scared for my family now. Are they safe?” 

The communication services were snapped gradually overnight. The Kashmir Walla can confirm that all lines, including government-owned BSNL services, are now unreachable in the Valley.

“As a Kashmiri, I’m really pissed right now,” said another Kashmiri woman, living in the national capital. She requested anonymity out of fear for reprisal from the police. “Why did they do this? This is just too much. There are so many government forces on the streets, what was the need for this? They cannot handle a mourning? People outside Kashmir continue to live in trauma too.”

“Not able to publish news”

The Kashmir Walla had earlier reported that the press was disallowed from covering the final rites of Geelani. Geelani’s family has alleged that the body was forcefully taken into custody and was buried by the state officials barring the family presence.

Adnan Bhat, a Kashmiri journalist, said, “I’m tying to get an update of the sittuation and that’s not possible. My colleagues in the field as not able to do their duties as per the last tweets before the internet went out. First concern is for them, who are not able to publish news right now.” 

“Kashmir is a blackhole where you can’t really reach anyone,” Bhat told The Kashmir Walla. “There is a sense of fear that it might be a prolonged thing,” he added, referring to the months long communication blackout after New Delhi revoked Kashmir’s limited-autonomy in August 2019.

“This blackout tells you everything about how Indian government is handling Kashmir,” Bhat said. “They said that seperatists are irrelevant now [after revoking the limited-autonomy] and Kashmiris are on board with this, and then we have this 92-year-old leader, who died in house arrest, and the first thing they do is put a blanket ban on communication. What are you trying to hide?”

SOS on social media

Several Kashmiris have put up SOS calls on the social media platforms, writing in anguish against the ban. “Does anyone know when they will restore service?” a user wrote on Twitter. “I have a younger sibling who has to appear for her college admission test on Sunday.”

Another woman, Areeba Zargar said that she was on call with her husband with the communication lines were snapped. “Phone services are barred, I was just on a call with my husband a few minutes back which suddenly dropped and is now out of network,” she wrote.

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