‘Needed Internet for Admissions, So I Came to Delhi From Kashmir’
I am Aamir, a 21 year old from Kashmir; Baramulla to be precise. In May this year, I gave my SAT which is a standardised test widely used for college admissions in the United States. I wanted to study journalism in the US so that I could tell the stories of Kashmir to the world – from its breathtaking beauty to its heartbreaking reality.
After giving my SAT, I had to apply for the fall semester for which the application process starts in August and ends in October. As August came closer, there was a sudden panic and rumours began to circulate about the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The rumours came true on 5 August, not only was Article 370 abrogated but a communication blackout was also imposed by the government.
How did it affect me? Well, all my research about universities and the application process came to a halt. Initially, I thought the blackout was for a few hours or even for a day or two. When communication wasn’t restored for a week, I was left in a helpless state, I didn’t know what to do.
Sadness took over my life. There was nothing to do. I couldn’t continue my research. There was no place where I could meet my friends. There was nothing to watch on the television. All I was left with were the questions ‘why’ and ‘when’. Why is this happening? And when will it end?
Paranoia started to grip the Valley and the curiosity of what was happening in the rest of the country and around the world started to play in my head. There was radio silence! The flow of rumours had conquered the flow of information. Rumours about the date when the restrictions would be lifted made their way in, but the dates kept changing and I kept waiting. I started feeling suffocated.
Seeing me like this, my family decided I should travel to Delhi and stay with my cousin who lived there.
By then some landlines were working, so my parents called my cousin from our neighbour's landline and informed him of my visit to Delhi.
My flight from Srinagar to New Delhi was on 1 October at 5 pm.
Once I reached Delhi, I just followed my cousin’s instructions. I reached Batla House but had no way to reach my cousin as my SIM card had become invalid due to the continuous communication blockade in Kashmir. I asked people around and managed to make a quick call to my cousin. I finally met him, we hugged and exchanged greetings before finally getting home.
It was but obvious we discussed Kashmir. Clearly, he knew more of what had happened in Kashmir in the two months than I did. The lockdown had put in place for us an information barrier.
It felt so good to have Internet access after nearly two months.
To be honest, I was upset when I got to know I had missed the deadline but I was not angry. I knew there were people back home who were far more affected by the lockdown than me.
I’m still in Delhi. I plan to stay here for a few more weeks. I don’t get to speak to my parents often. But when I do, I am told not much has changed in the Valley. As I write this piece, there is one question that I would like to ask everyone: Should the right to Internet access be denied in times of crisis as collective punishment?
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