August 27, 2019

Kashmiri doctor arrested after warning blackout could cause deaths
A Kashmiri doctor who warned the three-week curfew and communications blackout in the state would lead to critical medication shortages and deaths has been arrested. Omar Salim, a urologist at the Government Medical College in the state capital of Srinagar, said life-saving medicines were running out and new orders could not be placed.  Dr Salim was detained on Monday, ten minutes after speaking to the media in Srinagar, and his whereabouts is unknown.  Efforts to contact him have been unsuccessful because of the blackout. It was reported he was holding a placard that said he was making a “request and not a protest” as he was arrested.  Kashmir has been under curfew and a communications blackout since the Indian authorities revoked Article 370 and 35A of its constitution on August 5, bringing the Muslim-majority state under central rule for the first time since independence in 1947. Kashmiris claim that medical supplies are running out and that patients can't access emergency care because of the curfew Credit: Rakesh Bakshi/AFP “I have a patient who required chemotherapy on August 6, he came to us on August 24 but could not obtain the chemotherapy medicine," Dr Salim said.   “Another patient whose chemotherapy drug has to be obtained form Delhi was unable to place an order for the drug. His chemotherapy has been postponed indefinitely.”  Dr Salim also warned kidney dialysis patients could only receive treatment once a week and Kashmiris could not purchase medicines because ATMs had run out of money.  “If patients don’t receive dialysis, they will die. If cancer patients don’t receive chemotherapy, they will die. Those patients who can’t be operated on can die,” he said. The Jammu and Kashmir Department of Information and Public Relations dismissed reports of medicine shortages claiming all government approved drugs are still available in both state-owned shops and private retailers. This was contradicted by two groups of Kashmiri medical professionals who separately published open letters last week warning the curfew was preventing patients from accessing emergency medical care and that supplies were running out.  The Indian authorities claim there have been no civilian deaths since it removed the state’s autonomous status.  Local media reports say there have been at least three deaths from tear gas and shotgun pellets and that doctors have “received clear verbal instructions” from the authorities to record alternate causes of death.  The Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told The Indian Express the curfew and blackout had been necessary to maintain peace and that “we don’t foresee this going on for too long.”  The Indian Army has taken to the streets to hand out flyers listing the 11 positives the removal of autonomy would make.  These included compulsory education for women, the construction of new hospitals and hotels and the central implementation of law from Delhi which would include a crackdown on corruption.
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