Living in a state of siege
Forced to stay inside their homes, people in the valley continue to suffer in the harsh curfew imposed after the hanging of Afzal Guru in Delhi’s Tihar Jail
CURFEWED DAYS AND NIGHTS
Following the hanging of Afzal Guru in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, a strict curfew was imposed across the valley since last Saturday by the state government authorities. Internet was blocked and media gagged. The harsh curfew imposed by the government in the wee hours of Saturday forced people inside their homes, short of essential supplies and faced with uncertain times ahead.
“In Kashmir, curfew is used as a form of collective punishment to curb the dissent among people. Whenever the situation becomes precarious in Kashmir after some sensitive development, clampdown always remains the government’s first response to it,” says Khuram Parvez, a human rights activist and Program Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. He says the authorities do not leave any space for the democratic ways of protest. “They instead provoke people by imposing curbs on them using barbed wires and undeclared curfews. Even they do not hesitate to use bullets and tear gas shells on the people.”
During the curfew every street wears a deserted look with thick coils of concertina wires blocking all exit and entry points of various localities. People are scared to even mourn for their dead. “Same happened this time also when some people decided to offer funeral prayer in absentia for Afzal…They were fired upon. Witnessing that, people in other localities dropped the program,” Khuram says.
He says the government tries to criminalize the dissent by relating the aspirations of people with law and order problem. “Every time people decide to hold peaceful protests, police retort to torture and killings. The law enforcing agencies always violate basic SOPs and indulge in un-provocative firing and teargas shelling. It escalates violence resulting in deaths which is otherwise avoidable,” he says.
CRPF and police personnel always remain armed with guns slung over their shoulders and canes in their hands to stop people from coming out of their homes. While patrolling and carrying out search operations on the streets, they unnecessarily harass people.
Sadiq Baqal a Trade Unionist of Kashmir believes that the curfew makes people “imprisoned inside their houses” since no movement is allowed in presence of a huge police and CRPF contingent. “If someone dares to step out of his house in search of some essentials for the family, he either faces harassment of the forces or gets beaten up,” Baqal says, adding that the curbs not only shut the local business, but puts the life of many at stake.
In the besieged valley people are also facing shortage of groceries and life saving drugs. And parents struggle to find milk for their infants. While a distressed population anticipates some relaxation with every passing moment in the curfewed days, the authorities instead blare out warnings from the loud speakers of police patrols, asking them to stay indoors. “Whatever may be the reason for government to impose curfew, it brings the normal life to a standstill with people caged like cattle, raising humanitarian concerns,” Baqal says.
Worried about the trend, another Trade Union Leader and President KCCI, Abdul Hameed believes that continuous curbs raise uncertainties for everyone. “Jammu and Kashmir is known for its tourism and indigenous businesses but when every road and street is filled with uniformed and armed men, how we can hope that tourism will flourish?” he asks.
“We are not only losing our day-to-day business opportunities but thousands of future bookings as well. This is a season for winter tourists to come to the valley but we have lost them to the curfew,” Hameed says. He says the government ban on communication links, including internet, has created disconnect between the professionals and businessmen living in the valley and their clients and employers outside. Hameed adds that when a widespread and affordable information and communication system—the internet stops working in Kashmir following the official ban, it also affects the financial system.
A noted columnist, M Ashraf says the official claim that “curfew brings peace in Kashmir” shows their impracticality, “Kashmir has been claimed to be more or less ‘peaceful’ and situation is supposed to be under control but in reality it is the peace of the graveyard.” “This clampdown is not even seen in some of the worst totalitarian states of South America or the erstwhile Soviet Union or even the Nazi Germany. Those people at least had the decency of allowing the needy, elderly, and sick people to move around,” he writes.
M Ashraf questioned Delhi’s decision of Guru’s execution and the subsequent curbs on people in Kashmir in his recent column in GK. “If Afzal Guru was a ‘self-confessed terrorist’ and had been convicted after duly following the process of law and then the sentence carried out, what the Home Minister called, after fulfilling all the requirements of law, then why put entire Kashmir under siege…why such a severe clampdown,” he writes. “Do the authorities have nagging doubt that they had done something wrong? Or do they fear that even a proclaimed Kashmiri terrorist indulging in violence against the highest seat of the largest democracy in the world is considered to be a hero in Kashmir?”
Hidden from the political debate, valley hospitals replicate the real pain and suffering people are facing in Kashmir. People face a tough time ferrying critical patients for treatment to the hospitals. In some hospitals, discharged patients and their attendants are held up for want of transport. “People are suffering from cardiac problems and hypertension. People face complications in their homes for the lack of access to hospitals and life saving drugs like anti-coagulents, anti-hypertensive drugs,” says a doctor at SMHS Hospital.
He says pregnant mothers too face problems amid curbs and absence of ambulances made available to them. Last Sunday, valley’s lone Maternity Specialty, LD hospital received a pregnant lady from Islamabad in a serious condition. She later died within less than 12 hours in the hospital following some complication. “We received her late. We would have saved her if there would have been no delay in shifting her to the hospital,” says a senior doctor in the hospital.
President Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), Dr Nissar-ul-Hassan says the healthcare system suffers the maximum during curfew days. “When doctors are not allowed to go to the hospital, how can one expect patients getting healthcare facilities?” he asks. Dr Hassan believes that the doctors cannot deliver 100 percent in this hostile environment. “It is difficult for a doctor to perform his duty when his own life is at risk,” he says.
There has been no teaching activity in medical and dental colleges of valley since the imposition of curfew since the past six days. “It has a bad impression on the psyche of future doctors who often decide to leave the valley, leaving the ailing population of the valley short of doctors,” the DAK president says.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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