Sick Kashmiris feel the deadly consequences of India-imposed blackout

Srinagar, India, Feb 19 (AFP/APP): Sanaullah Dar was due to undergo surgery to remove a tumour in his bladder. Four months later, he was dead, with doctors blaming a lockdown imposed by New Delhi on the restive part of Kashmir it controls.

In August, India’s Hindu-nationalist government stripped the Himalayan region of its semi-autonomous status and imposed restrictions on movement and a communications blackout, virtually cutting it off from the outside world.

Life for Kashmir’s seven-million inhabitants came to a standstill, including for doctors and patients who rely heavily on the internet to consult specialists outside the region, communicate with patients and order vital medicine.

“To get appropriate healthcare for patients like my father is difficult anyway,” Dar’s 20-year-old daughter, Sumaya, told AFP.

The lockdown and blackout “made it impossible” for the family to schedule the surgery Dar urgently needed in Mumbai, 2,000 kilometres (1,300 miles) away.

By the time the family was able to get him to a hospital in Delhi in late October, it was too late. Dar passed away a week after he returned home.

Omar, an oncologist who treated Dar in Kashmir and who only wanted to give his first name, told AFP the surgery “probably would have been able to save” Dar if it had gone ahead as scheduled.

Dar was not his only patient to die due to the lack of timely specialist treatment, he said, adding he had heard of other deaths from other doctors’ patients.

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