Kashmir unrest: Residents under curfew face medicine shortage

Srinagar, India Updated: Jul 19, 2016, 05:07 PM(IST)

'A lot of people are struggling for medicines for diabetes, hypertension and anti-depressants,' said Nazir Ahmed who owns a pharmacy in the old part of the main city of Srinagar. In photo: Indian paramilitary troopers in Srinagar on July 19, 2016. Photograph:( AFP )

Kashmir residents said today they are facing shortages of prescription drugs, as parts of the region remained under curfew for an 11th day following deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.

As the overall death toll from days of violence rose to 45, shopkeepers warned supplies were running low because trucks were unable to reach them, while residents complained of being "caged" in their homes.

"People are suffering without medicines. A lot of people are struggling for medicines for diabetes, hypertension and anti-depressants," said Nazir Ahmed who owns a pharmacy in the old part of the main city of Srinagar.

With most vehicles ordered off the roads under the curfew, Ahmed said he walked five kilometres to a warehouse to buy medicines.

"No fresh supplies are coming from outside. This will last two to three days for my neighbourhood," Ahmed said, carrying plastic bags full of medicines.

Shops and other businesses have been shuttered under the curfew which the government says is needed to curb the street clashes that erupted after the death of a Hizbul Mujahideen commander on July 8.

Burhan Wani, killed during a gunbattle with government forces, was commander of the region's biggest separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen, listed as a terror group by India, United States and the European Union among others, one of several fighting for decades against Indian troops deployed in the territory.

The clashes are the deadliest in Muslim-majority Kashmir since 2010 when massive demonstrations were held against Indian rule.

Kashmir has been divided between rivals India and Pakistan since independence in 1947, but both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

In the latest violence two protesters were killed late Monday when soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing demonstrators in the south.

The army said in a statement troops were forced to shoot when a "large mob turned violent" and "attempted to snatch weapons from the soldiers", adding that the deaths were regretted.

In parts of Srinagar today, residents kept watch for volunteers from local charities delivering supplies including food on foot.

An elderly woman suffering from hypertension and a heart condition said she hoped they would bring medicines soon.

"I don't have my medicines. Some volunteers came, but they did not have the medicines I need," Noora, 80, who uses one name, said from her doorstep.

"We are just caged inside our home," her son, Ghulam Nabi Ahangar, added.

Ahangar said security forces were firing tear gas and pepper spray at night to deter people from venturing outside.

"The poisonous gases stay inside our home and lungs the whole night. Our children are falling sick and cannot sleep," Ahangar told AFP.

Some pharmacies outside hospitals are open but few residents can reach them, while internet and phone services remain patchy.

"Patients who have not been able to reach hospitals will come in large numbers once the curfew is lifted. It will be another huge emergency," said Kaisar Ahmed, head of Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital and six other government hospitals in Srinagar.

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