“It doesn’t feel like Eid”: Kashmiri Muslims cut off from families by India’s blackout
New Delhi — “Did you take any medicine?” Shahid Lone’s mother asked him in a phone call on August 5. Lone, research scholar from Kashmir who is studying in the Indian capital of New Delhi, was down with a fever. Before he could answer his mother’s question, the phone was disconnected.
All phone lines in the part of Kashmir controlled by India were severed at that very moment. The internet was shut down, too. Eight days later, Lone and thousands of other Kashmiris living outside the small, disputed region in the Himalayas still haven’t been able to get back in touch with their families. The disconnect, and the worry that comes with it, were felt even more acutely on Monday as India’s only predominantly-Muslim region marked the religious festival of Eid al-Adha.
Changing Kashmir’s statusThe population of about 8 million people in Indian Administered Kashmir remained under a complete communications blackout on Monday, with little or no contact with the outside world, except what they can see on TV. They only learned by watching television, the morning after the communications blackout took effect last week, that the Indian federal government had revoked the region’s special status. Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party had promised in their election manifesto to abrogate the special status of the only Muslim-majority state, and they made good on the promise last week, revoking Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. Together those measures had granted state of Jammu and Kashmir its own constitution and decision-making rights for everything but from foreign affairs, communications, and defense. They also prevented Indians from outside the state from permanently settling there and buying land. Modi called his decision “historic.” India’s government argues that the move, which has been fervently supported by many Hindu nationalists, would boost investment in Kashmir and thus improve the livelihoods of its residents. Critics say it could shift the demographics of Kashmir by allowing in Hindu residents, and setting the stage for confrontations.The government has said it will divide the region into two territories, both directly governed by the federal government in New Delhi. Fearing protests over the monumental decision, Indian authorities locked down most parts of the Kashmir Valley, imposed a curfew and cut the phone and internet lines. The security lockdown was relaxed slightly after a couple days, but the communications blackout has remained in place. “It doesn’t feel like Eid””We expected the government to open the phone lines for Eid at least,” Muhammad Basit, another Kashmiri working in New Delhi, told CBS News. “This is a black Eid.”