“Closed shops, no public transport?”

After two months of insisting that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is normal, the territory’s government finally made this admission on the front pages of ten local newspapers on Friday – in the form of full-page advertisements.

The ad asked Kashmiris to think about “who benefits” from this situation.

“For over 70 years now, the people of J&K have been misled,” the ad declared in text of red and blue. “They have been victims of a vicious campaign and motivated propaganda that has kept them trapped in an endless cycle of terrorism, violence, destruction and poverty.”

Since August 5, both the Central government and Jammu and Kashmir government have maintained that the situation in Kashmir has been more or less peaceful since the territory’s special status was revoked.

Blaming separatists for pushing the children of “common people” into “violence, stone pelting and hartals”, the advertisement stated, “Today, militants are using the same tactic of threats and coercion.”

It added that the “separatists sent their children to exotic lands to study, work and earn” and “used threats of terrorists, coercion and misinformation to beguile the people”. It asked: “Are we going to tolerate this?”

However, since separatist leaders, who have either been jailed or detained in their homes, they have not been in a position to issue statements or call for shutdowns.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik is in Delhi’s Tihar jail, while senior Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani remains under house arrest. Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is also under house arrest.

‘We are at the crossroads’

Declaring that “we are the crossroads today”, the advertisement asks the people of Kashmir to make a choice.

“Do we permit the age-old tactic of threats and coercion to influence us?” it asks. “Will threat and misinformation prevail or will we take informed decisions on what is best for us?”

It concludes” “This is our home. It is for us to think of its wellbeing and prosperity. Why fear?”

According to an official from the government’s Department of Information and Public Relations, the advertisements were released to ten newspapers across Jammu and Kashmir on October 11. “Five of them are based in Kashmir and five are Jammu-based newspapers,” the official said. “The advertisements will continue tomorrow as well in other ten newspapers.”

He said that each advertisement costs the government around Rs 50,000.

It’s not the first time the government is using official advertisements to send a message to the people after the hollowing out of Article 370 and Article 35A, the main provisions that carved out a special position for Jammu & Kashmir within the Indian republic. Last month, the government published full front-page advertisements in dozens of local newspapers to inform readers about the “benefits” of scrapping these provisions.