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'No way to contact home', say central forces deployed in Kashmir amid blackout: Report

With the communication blackout in Kashmir Valley entering its ninth day, thousands of security personnel deployed in the region, along with the locals, have been left without any means to contact their families, The Indian Express has reported.

"There is no way to communicate with our families. It has been a week now," a personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) told the newspaper. Many CRPF men the newspaper spoke to said the last time they called home was on August 4 or 5.

"It has been tiring," a CRPF man from Uttar Pradesh said. "I have tried everything. I have been asking everyone if there is a way to make a phone call home," he added.

"We have been out since 5 am, standing here. By the time we go back to the camp, it will be evening. There aren’t any phones working. Everybody (in the camp) has the same complaint. There is no way to contact home," the CRPF jawan said.

According to the report, even though the government had brought in satellite phones, the security personnel found that they weren't working. Following this, cell phone companies like the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) were told to de-block a select number of phones. This allowed for the phones of top officials, including senior officers of the central forces and police administration, to work.

A senior police official in Srinagar told the newspaper that the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel guarding his residence were able to contact their families home after he allowed them to use his phone.

"One of them was desperate. There was some situation at his home and he wanted to contact them urgently," the police official said. "I gave him the phone. Soon, all the men guarding the place assembled and, one by one, they called up their homes. They were relieved."

For some, however, the wait continues.

"I came in April, and was in regular touch with my family. Now, phones are not working, and, like everyone else in Kashmir, I am also not able to contact my family," a CRPF man at Regal Chowk said.

"I am missing my two sons… for the first time, I have not been able to talk to them for such a long period. My wife must be worried," he added.

"This is my first posting in Kashmir. During the last one month, I was in regular touch with my family. On August 5, when my phone stopped working, I was surprised because I have never seen such a situation," another CRPF jawan said, adding that he was able to send a text message to his brother stating that he is safe, but he is not sure whether the message was received.

"Let’s hope that phone services are started soon, and then I can talk to my family again," the jawan added.

"Everybody, including our families, knows that the situation here is precarious. We are also sons, brothers, fathers, husbands. Our loved ones too want to know how we are," an SSB man from Assam said.

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