Since 5 August, Srinagar Development Commissioner Shahid Choudhary has managed the fallout of the Modi government’s sudden move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special constitution status and bifurcate the northern state.
Following a 12-day long communication blackout, Choudhary said that landline connectivity will be restored on Saturday.
In an interview with HuffPost India, he said, “Now, phone lines are being restored with immediate effect.”
There is still no clarity on when mobile services and the internet will be restored, and the curfew lifted.
Mobile services and the internet are still down — when will these be restored?
Process has been initiated for restoration of phone lines from tomorrow (Saturday) in most of the areas. Cellular connectivity shall follow.
When will the communication blackout end?
Communication for maintenance of essential services is in place right from day one. Help lines were also established for public convenience. However, this had a limited reach given the demand-supply gap. Now, phone lines are being restored with immediate effect.
Who will make the call to end the blackout? The district administration or New Delhi?
Steps required to maintain public order and securing the safety of life are certainly taken at the local level by law enforcement authorities. The situation has improved over time. The process has begun for restoration of communication lines.
What are the alternative arrangements you have made for people to communicate to people outside Kashmir Valley?
Initially, helplines were established at DC offices followed by the availability of these services at police stations and field offices. The DC office in Srinagar had two helplines and four officials numbers where more than 19,000 calls were made / received in the last one week.
How long will the curfew continue? Has the curfew been relaxed in the past twelve days?
There has to be a differentiation between curfew and restrictions under Section 144 of the CrPC viz-a-viz use of force or legal implications. No orders were issued for curfew. There were restrictions under Section 144 CrPC and eased many times during the last one week or so.
Do you anticipate large scale protests?
In administration or law enforcement our job is always to remain prepared. Let’s hope for the best. The situation has remained peaceful in most of the areas and I expect it to remain peaceful.
What is your biggest challenge?
On our part we have complete preparedness in place – sufficient supply of fuel, food, medicines and essential services, and measures for maintenance of public order and security . We look forward to greater cooperation from public for maintaining peace in the region.
How are you coping?
A lot of efforts have gone in maintaining public supplies and essential services ― power, water, sanitation, health, banking and so on apart from maintenance of public order. This meant working round the clock for everyone in the team. We have been successful in ensuring best possible service delivery in these circumstances. There are still no signs of exhaustion and we continue to monitor the situation apart from delivering our best on various fronts.