Anwar Hussain

In an era of information and information technology, cellular communications have attained an importance no less than that of oxygen. Since the time cellular communications were started in Kashmir in 2003, no one ever imagined that there would be a situation that one would have to live without this life line. In 2012, post protests when the messaging services were stopped, there was such a hue and cry that the govt was forced to restore the services. Similarly post hanging of Afzal Guru, when internet services and data transfer services were restricted due to the threat of these services being used for mobilisation of masses, almost every section of the society condemned it and all the newspapers used to be full of reports and articles criticising the action on part of the govt. But when a situation worse in terms of context and implication has happened, why is the intelligentsia and the opinion makers are giving a muted response.
While Police is still investigating the incidents of attack against those who have mobile towers in their land or are involved in the business related to cellular communication, CM’s assurance to the people has done very little good. The suffering already being faced at a time when starting from education, business, transportation and health all the sectors are dependent on mobile communication for speech and data transfer, how can people draw solace from a mere statement. People over the past week have been virtually cut off from the world. The telecom towers have been turned off. Recharging business is shut down. As a result, cell phone networks are dead. This has created a crisis situation.
The situation is the outcome of the incidents of attack wherein one person was killed and two people were injured in four successive attacks by a little known outfit Lashker-i-Islam against the people associated with telecom trade. Initially there was a silence in the Hurriyat camp, however, seeing the public outcry and to stay out of the blame, the attacks were condemned by the Hurriyat and the militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashker-i-Toiba. While they have blamed the government agencies for the attacks and killings, there is a little sense that people can draw out of such blame games, particularly when there ample indicators suggesting the designs of those who do not prefer peace in Kashmir. The government, on the other hand, has blamed Hizb for thses acts, with IGP Police Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gilani saying that the attacks followed after police recovered a communication device used by militants from a telecom tower. Irrespective of the affiliations of the outfit Lashker-i-Islam and its affiliation, the attacks against the people who are associated with telecom business is both condemnable and abhorable.
Neither people deserve to die for trying to earn their livelihood through legitimate means nor does the populace at large deserve to be denied the lifeline such as mobile communication in today’s times. Without getting into the ideology of Kashmir cause, irrespective of whether it is handiwork of one or the other organisation, such a bizarre act can not be accepted by the people.
At a time when the political violence in the state is at its lowest, and people have started looking up for a stable peace and bright future, an abrupt throwback to nineties like situation is inexplicable. The breakdown in communications is causing untold hardships to people. It is the time when board results have just come, students are looking for admissions, trying for professional and vocational courses, communications are most needed. There couldn’t be a more criminal act than denying them with information and ability to seek better avenues.
This is also the time when tourists had started crossing Banihal and touching down at Srinagar airport in large numbers, whose interest will it help if tourism comes to a grinding halt. It is definitely not going to serve the people or the cause of freedom. Does it therefore, mean that who so ever is behind these acts is neither interested in the cause of freedom nor the interest of the people. If that is so, then what is this entity and who is behind it?
Fruit season is at the door. The activities relating the fruit growers, contractors, transporters and the markets needs a very high degree of coordination. All this needs mobile communication. If this entire sequence of actions comes to a grinding halt, from the poor grower to big contractors, all will loose heavily. The backbone of individual finances, particularly in a year that saw devastating floods, depends on communication.
Flood rehabilitation is yet to start in a real sense. While govt action would have started appearing on ground after their settling down. This is a new crisis in the horizon. Entire business had collapsed post floods and this was the time when traders, vendors, shopkeepers had started emerging out of it.
Given the predicament created due to the shutting down of the mobile business and services, most disheartening is to see no one speaking against it. Why are there no protests on the streets against these acts? Why are newspapers not condemning these acts? One can see comments on the facebook blaming Govt of India for all these acts, is this attitude going to help in any way? Its time when people have to stand up for themselves. Whether it is against poor governance, a bad act by any govt organisation or the act by separatists or militants, people have to rise and oppose. Particularly in a scenario like this when Hurriyat as well as Syed Salahuddin have both condemned, does this silence on part of people mean that they are suspecting any major organisation called “Lashker-i-Islam” has arrived on the scenes which can deter them to accepting such a disastrous loss in multiple ways? Even if it is, there is a need to respond and tell that interest of people at large cannot be allowed to be compromised.
At a time when, the collapse of telecommunications is crippling the lives, businesses and trade, there is an urgent need for this crisis to end. And to this end all the stakeholders, primarily the people, have to take the issue seriously and act rather than being bystanders and watchers.