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Kashmir Dispatch 2 | Hello, Abbu! Two Words That Ended Five Long Days of Misery for Akhtars in Srinagar, Delhi and Dhaka

A couple of phones in the DC office, Srinagar, are the only means of communication open to the people of Kashmir to speak to people outside; and for people outside the Valley to check up on their family and friends in Kashmir.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:August 9, 2019, 9:08 PM IST
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Kashmir Dispatch 2 | Hello, Abbu! Two Words That Ended Five Long Days of Misery for Akhtars in Srinagar, Delhi and Dhaka
Barbed wire is seen laid on a deserted road during restrictions in Srinagar. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
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Srinagar: Mohammad Ishaq and his wife Shabeena Akhtar begged before the paramilitary troopers guarding the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Srinagar’s office to allow them inside.

The troopers said they can only allow Ishaq. There is no female security guard at the gate who could frisk Akhtar. The couple have come to make a call to their daughter who is studying in Dhaka.

In Kashmir, there is an absolute ban on internet for last five days. Phone services, both landlines and mobiles, have been completely snapped. The communication gag in Kashmir was enforced from Sunday night as the Union government decided to scrap Article 370, which conferred special status onto Jammu and Kashmir, and divide the state into two Union Territories.

A couple of phones in the DC office, Srinagar, are the only means of communication open to the people of Kashmir to speak to people outside; and for people outside the Valley to check up on their family and friends in Kashmir.

Ishaq and Akhtar were desperately waiting for their turn to speak to their daughter on one of these phone lines.

Akhtar tries hard to convince the troops at the gate of DC office to allow her to go inside and let her talk to her daughter. “I have to talk to my daughter. I haven’t listened to her voice for five days. I don’t know how she has been,” she pleads, in vain.

The security doesn’t budge. Only Ishaq is let inside.

Also Read: Kashmir Dispatch 1 | Food and Fear a Struggle as Kashmiris Grapple With the New Normal on Day 4 of Lockdown

There is a small room on the top floor of the three-storey building where two cell phones are working. Inside the room chaos reigns as people struggle to get their names listed in the long queue. Ishaq manages to get close to the desk and register his name.

It is after half-an-hour of wait that his name is shouted and he finally dials the number of his daughter. But it doesn’t connect.

“You cannot make international calls,” he is told by the operator.

Bewildered, Ishaq struggles to find number of his niece who is studying in a Delhi college. He gets lucky this time. His niece picks up the phone.

Ingeniously, the niece gets hold of another mobile phone, dials Ishaq’s daughter’s number, and puts her through to him. Ishaq’s eyes are filled with tears as he listens to the voice of his daughter for the first time in five days. He is allowed to talk to her for five minutes.

His wife, Akhtar, was waiting outside at the gate all this while. When she sees her husband coming out, she grabs him by his arm and enquires about their daughter.

“She is all well and healthy,” Ishaq announces. Both of them feel a sense of relief. But they don’t know when they’ll get to talk to their daughter again.

As all communication is gagged in Kashmir, those whose children are studying or working outside are worried about the safety of their children. “We don’t know if they have money or if they need something,” said Mohammad Subhan, who has also come to call his son.

He says, “Our children, who are outside are worried about us. We are worried about them. We have no information about our loved ones. This is an unbearable situation.”

People in Valley have been requesting the administration to at least open some lines of communication.

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