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COVID-19 lockdown versus Kashmir lockdown

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In these uncertain times of the pandemic, the government has imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown. This led to unprecedented scenes like empty streets, lanes covered with barricades, police patrol vehicles everywhere, curfew on 24/7 and nothing to do nowhere to go. We are in a state similar to Kashmir was over 8 months. The profound consequences of this lockdown are Closure of local businesses, joblessness of daily wage earners, and the struggle of healthcare workers to cope up with the inflow of patients. On the other side, the school children and college students, who are unused to being at home, are busy participating in WhatsApp and ticktock challenges which the youth of Kashmir had no luxury; thanks to blockage of telecommunication and the internet. The baby boomers were active in believing whatever is being shared on WhatsApp and forwarding the information to their loved ones.

During these unprecedented times, we are not only experiencing economic hardships but also emotional encumbrance. The reasonable apprehension the public has to stoically endure is enormous, added to this the news channels displaying statistics of new cases and deaths, resembling general election numbers or cricket match figures, is multiplying the anxiety among the public by manifolds. Moreover, rampant misinformation which is being circulated among WhatsApp and other social media platforms is equally contributing to the psychological burden. This mental strain will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the health of the public.

The plight of people who are involved in activities such as construction, brick and mortar, and e-retail industry is miserable. The virus might have got into the nation by the rich via airports, yet the poor had to bear the brunt. Migrant workers and daily wage earners are jobless; they have no food to eat and not money to stay in the city. The government remains insisting on maintaining social distance, washing hands frequently and maintain hygiene. Ironically, most of the country is in a severe shortage of water, let alone safe drinking water and handwashing. The cities are overcrowded; for instance, many college students and migrant workers share a room with six others. Unless addressed by the government, these obstacles would hamper the intentions of the government. The situation in Kashmir was not so different, however, compared to COVID-19 lockdown, the Kashmir lockdown was well planned and well-executed; the government ensured the availability of enough food supply throughout the Valley. Moreover, the population size and density are much more than Kashmir throughout India.

On 05-Aug-2019, the parliament had voted for the abrogation of article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two union territories. This event was followed by the complete lockdown of Kashmir Valley. The government argued that the lockdown was to prevent potential violence and loss of life. For the people of Kashmir, the lockdown of the valley after the abrogation of article 370 and pan-India lockdown after the COVID-19 pandemic have very few similarities. In both the lockdowns the schools, colleges, and businesses were shut. Local transportation is blocked, police patrolling is everywhere to ensure successful lockdown. However, there are many stark contrasts between both the lockdowns. The lockdown during a pandemic is supported by the government, opposition, public and health experts. In case of lockdown after the abrogation of article 370, it was supported merely by government and intelligence agencies. The other difference is telecommunication. There was a complete blockage of mobile networks and the internet for over 6 months. The government claimed this would stop the spread of rumors.

Throughout India, people can surf the internet, watch videos, use social media, and the students can involve in online learning activities which would assist to cope up with pensive melancholy. However, in Kashmir the scenario is bizarre, the internet was shut for almost 6 months. The sole source of entertainment was the television. Despite the reestablishment of the internet in the valley recently, the people are not so delighted; apparent reason? No 3G or 4G. The people of the valley are using the mobile internet at the 2G speed; hardly a YouTube video can buffer at that speed. The lockdown of the valley maybe for the noble cause to prevent the loss of life but the mental trauma due to lockdown faced by the people of the valley is far greater than that of the rest of India faced during COVID-19 lockdown.

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