SRINAGAR: Occupation authorities started restoring landline telephone but continued strict curfew and other restrictions across Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) on the 13th consecutive day on Saturday with heavy troops deployment prevented some protests in Srinagar from getting out of control.
New Delhi cut landlines, mobile phones and the internet in early August as it stripped the occupied region of its autonomy. Fearing an angry and violent response, it also sent 10,000 extra troops to the area and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of people.
Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored on Saturday in the restive Valley after an almost two-week communications blackout. Dilbag Singh, police chief in occupied Kashmir, said mobile internet had also been restored to five areas of Jammu.
“We have opened up 17 telephone exchanges. Landline connections have been opened in some parts of each district in Kashmir,” Singh told AFP. However, around two dozen people who spoke to an AFP reporter in Srinagar on Saturday morning said their landlines were still dead. In the morning most shops also remained closed with people looking to buy essential items.
The occupied territory’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said on Friday there would be a “gradual” restoration of phone lines over the weekend. He added that the easing would “(keep) in mind the constant threat posed by terrorist organisations in using mobile connectivity”.
The lockdown has failed to stop public anger boiling to the surface, however. On Friday in Srinagar several hundred protestors clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns, another AFP reporter on the ground said.
The clashes broke out when more than 3,000 people rallied in the Srinagar locality of Soura that has witnessed regular protests since New Delhi’s surprise move on August 5. A week earlier around 10,000 people staged a protest, with police also responding with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.
Mohammed Altaf Malik, 30, said people were angry about the stripping of Kashmir’s special status “and the way it was done”. “We were locked down and not even asked,” he told AFP as he went to visit a sick neighbour in hospital.
“There is widespread corruption and the police here has made it a business to pick up any people it wants and then ask for money to release them from detention. We don’t see anything changing from this for ordinary people like us,” a Srinagar resident, Tariq Madri, told AFP.