No contact and messages, relationships in Kashmir after abrogation of 370

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Report by: Wahid Bhat

SRINAGAR: In Burhan and Sadira’s four-year-old relationship, maximum duration have been cross at each other for is two months.. “During that time of lockdown in Kashmir valley, we didn’t talk or chat on the phone,”says Burhan 23. “But I still managed to see her every day but feel like we lose some important part of our life.”

But during the lockdown in Kashmir after the abrogation of article 370 and 35A, they have been full of anxiety, concern and “forced separation” for the pair. “From the 2008 Amarnath land uprising to 2016 Burhan Wani upsurge, our relationship has witnessed every curfew season and phone blockade, but it’s never been this bad,” says Burhan.

Since the midnight of August 4-5, the Kashmir Valley has been put under a never-seen-before communication blackout, with government snapping telephone, mobile and internet services. The unprecedented security and communication lockdown came in the wake of Indian government’s unilateral decision to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution, and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories.

For couples, abrogation of art 370 and 35A and lockdown means no calls, no WhatsApp messages and no exchange of voice notes. “I haven’t been able to see her all this time because of the curfew… If I hear her voice this time, I will scream and break down,” Burhan says, taking long drags of a cigarette. To placate himself, he swipes through dozens of pictures of Sadira on his phone, numerous times, every day. When her memory becomes unbearable, he listens to her voice over recorded calls. “I have also some recorded video calls of her; I watch them too. These days, I avoid watching movies based on love stories. I have also doubled my cigarette intake.”

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On 14 September, the Jammu and Kashmir government announced “easing up” of restrictions across the Valley. Now, landline phone services have apparently been restored in 35 police station areas of Kashmir while 17 telephone exchanges out of 96 have been made functional.

“But that’s still not an option,” says Adnan Bashir, a Student of final year BSC. “I don’t have a landline at home and even if I manage to call my girlfriend, she wouldn’t be able to talk in front of her family.”

Aabir spoke to his girlfriend Aasma* last on the midnight of August 4. He has no knowledge of her since then. Aabir hails from Central Kashmir’s Pulwama district while Khushi lives in Baramulla district.

They are separated by a distance of more than 90 kilometres.

“None of our arguments have lasted more than three hours… the last time we failed to get in touch for a long period was during the Burhan Wani uprising,” he recalls, adding “it was she who came looking for me to my friend’s shop amidst the curfew in 2016.”

The trick worked and the two lovers were able to see and talk to each other for a few minutes. During that short interaction, the couple decided on their next date and timing. “I told her I will come around her house at 6 PM on Wednesday. She will be there,” Burhan hopes. What did she tell him in those precious few minutes, I ask. “Her face lit up when she saw me,” he recalls.

“She said she was worried about me and advised me to stay indoors during the curfew as the police has been rounding up boys.”

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Burhan “Despite knowing that there’s no network, I still dialed her number dozens of time every day. I also read our old chats and saw her pictures on my phone whenever I missed her.”

But while the communication blockade has forced distances between lovers, the situation has also cast its shadows on the Valley’s wedding scene.

*Names changed to protect privacy