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Landline Phones Return in Kashmir, but Calls Don’t go Through

A Kashmiri woman makes a call to a relative after landline phones were restored in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 5, 2019.
A Kashmiri woman makes a call to a relative after landline phones were restored in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 5, 2019.

The government in Indian-administered Kashmir said landline telephone service has been restored a month into a near-total communications blackout and security lockdown while India’s Hindu nationalist-led government downgraded the Muslim-majority region’s autonomy.

Calls not going through

On Thursday, people lined up at offices or homes that have landline telephones to try to contact family and friends after the long wait, but many were unable to get through after repeated attempts.

“Our landlines have been restored but we are still unable to talk to people. It is frustrating. I have been trying to call people since morning, but I am not getting through,” said Syed Musahid, in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian portion of the divided region.

Many Kashmiris living outside the region also said they were having trouble getting in touch with their families inside Kashmir.

“I kept trying a hundred times to reach my family in Kashmir, and only then did my call go through,” said Bint-e-Ali, a Kashmiri in the Indian city of Bengaluru.

She said she still hasn’t been able to talk to her ailing grandmother in Srinagar.

“I hope I live to tell this horrendous tale to our next generation about how India didn’t even let us talk to our family and friends,” she said.

No communication since August

The government says it suspended communications Aug. 5 to prevent rumors from spreading after Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Constitution was revoked and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was downgraded to two federal districts. The suspension has almost completely isolated Kashmir’s residents.

Srinagar resident Firdous Ahmad said the restoration of landline service “definitely brings a sigh of relief” but he also said he hoped cellphone and internet data services, which are more widely used, would be restored soon.

The Press Trust of India reported restrictions had been lifted on daytime movements in the Kashmir Valley. However, checkpoints remain in place.

Protests quickly put down

Protests over India’s moves have occurred sporadically in Kashmir and were quelled by security forces who fired pellets and tear gas.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirely. The nuclear rivals have fought two wars over its control.

India has tried to suppress frequent uprisings against its rule, including an armed rebellion that started in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.