Not a single person in the Kashmir Valley is happy about the Narendra Modi government’s decision to revoke the state’s special constitutional status, advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan and sociologist Nandini Sundar have said in a report prepared after their visit to the region from October 5 to 9.
Kashmiris are resisting the Centre “through satyagraha or non-violent civil disobedience”. “Since the entire leadership is in jail – from mainstream parties to the separatist parties, this satyagraha is being carried out by the people themselves,” the report added. “There is some societal coercion, but by and large, this is entirely voluntary. This is not happening on the direction of militants, contrary to the advertisements now being run by government.”
Ramakrishnan and Sundar claimed “almost every single person wanted azadi, though what they mean by this varies between full independence, ie not being with either India or Pakistan, to full merger with Pakistan”.
The government imposed restrictions on public movement and communications in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 before hollowing out Article 370 of Constitution. According to the administration, the restrictions were important to prevent law and order problems and curb terrorist activity. Restrictions were lifted in Jammu and Ladakh within a few weeks, but daily activity remains affected in parts of Kashmir. The government claims that restrictions on movement have been lifted completely, barring “eight to 10 police station” areas, and “over 99%” of the state has no such curbs now.
Ramakrishnan and Sundar said people do not believe the Centre’s promise to integrate the state with the rest of India. “Especially given that this promise has come with a communication blockade, heavy military presence, severe repression, and the denial of fundamental rights which are in theory available to every Indian citizen,” they added.
The lawyer and the sociologist claimed there was a complete shutdown in the Valley, and added that it was not because of militants. On Friday, the government had issued full-page advertisements in local newspapers, urging residents to return to normal life without fear from militants.
The two compared the current situation in the state to the one after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016. “The major differences are that first, now there is no leadership and people are acting on their own, second, the resistance is across the Valley [earlier it was mostly South Kashmir], and third, even those who were earlier with the Indian government are now completely alienated.”
Role of national media
Ramakrishnan and Sundar criticised the national media’s reporting from Kashmir, and alleged it was “heavily censored, with Orwellian claims that everything is normal and people are happy”. “The national television media is simply a disgrace since they are collaborating with the government in the pretence that everything is normal,” they added. “The correspondents for national media report abuses and torture faithfully but the news is not always carried.”
They remarked that in over two months, there had not been a single editorial in Kashmir on Article 370. “Everyone feels that they are being pushed back to the stone ages without phones and internet.”
The report said the Narendra Modi’s decisions would result in a “long term Palestine-like occupation, with heavy costs” not just to people of the state but also for the Indian economy. The political leadership in the state is “completely discredited”, it added. “Repeatedly we heard that if the government can jail even their favoured stooge, [NCP president] Farooq Abdullah , then what is a common person to expect?”
The report also mentioned the impact of the government’s decision on the state’s economy, apple trade, religious restrictions, educational losses and about arrest of children and minors.
“The number of arrests and preventive detention cases has increased since August 5,” said the report. “People with old FIRs against them are being picked up and kept in the police stations. Sometimes they are released and some of them are charged under PSA and kept in Srinagar central jail or taken to Agra. Families are scared that if they protest or speak to the press, the detenues will be charged with PSA.”
On October 10, the state administration withdrew its earlier advisory that had urged all tourists to leave the Valley. All postpaid mobile phone lines will be operational in Kashmir from October 14. Fixed landline phone services were restored last month.
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