Reporting From Kashmir Without Phones, Internet, Travel Pass

Published: August 08, 2019 09:36 IST
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"Koi jo mujhse yeh pooche tu kya shar-e-halaat likhe, dil thehre toh dard bataaye, dard thaame toh baat kare"

When I am asked how the situation is in Kashmir, I feel like saying, let the pain stop before I can answer that. I still cannot find peace, to bring myself to talk or write about it. The situation is yet to sink in, speaking both as a Kashmiri and a reporter. It's not just any news I am reporting. I am reporting my own story.

What has happened to us?

A place ravaged with violence. Its people, the large section of them who stood by the law, the constitution and fought militancy and separatism, they are pushed to the wall.

Constitutional guarantees were given to people as part of the decision to reject the two-nation theory and join the union of India; all those are gone. Kashmir, which was a sovereign state even before India and Pakistan were born as sovereign states, is no longer one - it is a Union territory. Overnight, it has lost its flag, constitution and its penal code - the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC).

I don't know what to do with the state subject certificate that designates me a resident of the state. It was a cumbersome process to obtain that certificate, introduced in 1929 by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. It was like a passport for the people of the state. That certificate has become trash.

As a reporter, I feel dispossessed. My telephone is shut, my landline is shut, my mobile, internet is shut. I can't even talk to my mother. For the last four days, I have not been able to speak to my mother or meet her as there are physical and online restrictions.

I plead with officials to give me a curfew pass. So far, I haven't been given one.

Officially, there is no curfew. There is only Section 144, which means a ban on gathering of four or more people.

Yet effectively there is strict curfew on the ground. Nobody can move around freely, there are barricades and grim-looking personnel saying "no permission" or "where's your curfew pass?"

The administration has been issuing passes to a select few from Delhi. Local reporters like me are struggling. I have to plead with personnel from checkpost to checkpost to somehow go and gather information as I cannot get anything on the phone.

Yesterday I met a visually impaired man crossing the road with someone's help. I asked him where he was going, he said he was returning home from the mosque. Did he know what was happening around him? "I know everything. Tell them to remove curfew if they are saying Kashmiris are very happy over abrogation of Article 370 and special status and transforming it into a Union Territory".

He continued, "I am not propagating violence, nor will I resort to it, but people will respond peacefully and will never take it lying down."

He cannot see the troops that have spread across the length and breadth of the state, but he does sense unease in the air. And he feels agitated.

For me, the people of Kashmir constitute what Kashmir is. It is the will of the people that matters more than any order.

For the last three days, I have seen patients suffering. The emergency helpline 100 is not working. Usually there are dozens of calls each day for medical emergencies. In the last three days, there have been zero calls, since every means of communication is shut. I wonder about patients with life-threatening emergencies.

Since the communication breakdown on Sunday night, the fire department has also stopped receiving calls.

When I report on the common man, there are people who talk about a different identity, a separate state, freedom, and there has been a groundswell of backing for the secessionist movement... but there was a buffer, which was Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir's constitutional position. A large section of the society embraced that constitutional arrangement. It believed in the Constitution, believed in the law of the land, believed in accession. I was in that group.

Today, I feel cheated.

When I leave home in the morning, my children are still asleep. I don't know what they do through the day because when I return, they are already in bed. They cannot go to school. I don't know how deeply this will affect them.

I feel helpless.

(Nazir Masoodi is NDTV's Srinagar Bureau Chief)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.



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