Romance takes a hit in Valley as internet blockade continues
In a conflict ridden Kashmir, going out on dates is well-nigh an impossible thing.Young men and women, instead, prefer to connect other on WhatsApp, Skype and many other such platforms. But the lock down and internet blackout has disturbed even this.
Last Monday, Arsalan Ahmad Bhat bundled himself up in woollens, wore a sturdy helmet and biked down to Jawahar Nagar locality in Srinagar. From Anantnag to Srinagar, he rode for a good 80 minutes amidst biting cold and under a sullen sky.
Bhat finally pulled over to the roadside and walked deep into an alleyway. Soon a smile flickered on his face as he saw his girlfriend waiting at a kiosk. They spoke briefly and left.
"It was almost after 4 months that I got to see her", says Bhat, his face reflecting a strange satisfaction. He could not see his girlfriend since August 5 when the Modi government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and turned it into two federally controlled territories. The government also cut all the communication lines putting a population of more than 7.5 million through the grind.
Although mobile pre-paid phones sprung to life in October, the internet remains off-limits. Bhat said that due to the internet blockade, there were hardly any video chats between him and his girlfriend. "I was pretty desperate to see her face even if it means for a few seconds", he said.
In a conflict zone like Kashmir, going frequently out on dates is a well-nigh impossible thing. Young men and women, instead, prefer to see each other on WhatsApp, Skype and other such platforms.
Irfan Ahmad, a resident of northern Baramulla district recounted he saw his girlfriend last on August 4. "I vividly recollect that it was around half-past ten pm when I rang off a video call. Since then I have not seen her", Ahmad said.
Ahmad pursues his masters in Political Science from a university in Delhi. Some young men who study outside India are even more desperate to see the loves of their lives. “International voice calls are way costly so we would make Whatsapp calls, but due to the protracted internet ban I spoke once in blue moon to my girlfriend", said Aaqib Ahmad, who studies medicine in Dhaka.
Hundreds of the Valley-based students pursue various courses, particularly in medicine and business administration, overseas in countries including the UK, US, Russia, China, and Bangladesh. Many youth, both male and female, who were in love over Facebook and Twitter have lost contact and are fretting about not being able to be in touch with their partners.
Saba, a 21-year-old B.Tech student said that she became enamoured of a boy over Facebook, but has not heard from him since August 5. “I don't have even his phone number", a lovelorn Saba added, who did not wish to be identified by her full name.
A band of youth lounging around at a village in south Kashmir's Qazigund town shared more or less the same views. "I don't know how she would be now. I repeatedly run my eyes over her old messages and am sure she would be doing the same", said Zakir Ahmad.
The last mesaage his girlfriend had sent him on August 5 read: “Yeh kuch karne jaa rahe hai. Yeh mobile aur internet dono band kar rahe hai. Ab hum message nahi baij sakte. Apna khayal rakhna. Love you aur haan boolna mat"
(They are up to something. They are also shutting off both mobile and internet services. We can't message now. Take care of yourself. Love you and yes, don’t forget me.)
The continued ban on voice calls of pre-paid cellular services has also caused a plethora of trouble for lovebirds here. Many of them griped that they and their partners had pre-paid SIM cards on which the service is barred, even after more than four months. “I purchased a postpaid SIM card and somehow managed to provide one to my girlfriend as well", said Amir Mir, a resident of Pulwama.
Lieutenant General Girish Chandra Murmur's recent statement that the internet would be restored in a phased manner in the Valley was music to the ears of lovers. He, however, did not provide any timeline for it.