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Posted at: Aug 11, 2019, 7:19 AM; last updated: Aug 11, 2019, 5:16 PM (IST)

In Kashmir, anger over ‘loss, betrayal’

With special status & statehood gone for Jammu and Kashmir, the monumental changes are still sinking in. If Jammu saw spontaneous celebrations, Ladakh’s upbeat mood over gaining UT status was muted by protests in Kargil, but it is Kashmir that has got everyone’s attention. The Valley has been under a security clampdown and there’s no escaping a tough, tense journey ahead

Majid Jahangir and Ishfaq Tantry  in Srinagar

Srinagar resident Tariq Ahmed is not prone to emotional outpourings, but last Monday, as his neighbour told him about the abrogation of Article 370 by New Delhi, the 35-year-old says he involuntarily did something he has never done before. He walked at least 4 kms, not minding the restrictions, to the civil secretariat complex to have a glimpse of the Jammu and Kashmir flag.

“In all these years, I was never keen to see it. That day, the news made me numb. Like a part of me had been severed. I walked all the way and clicked pictures of the flag with my mobile phone. I knew it was going.” Pledges and hearts have been broken, an emotional Tariq said.

Outside the secretariat, where security had been beefed up, scores of people could be seen capturing the last glimpse of the state’s flag fluttering alongside the Tricolour.

 That day, August 5, the government was apprehending large-scale violence to protest the loss of J&K’s special status and statehood, but a majority of people did not venture out of houses. Resigned to fate, the sense of loss and betrayal had perhaps numbed them.

Kashmiris already knew that something unpalatable was in store with the sudden deployment of additional forces. The advisories that followed added to the panic. On August 2, when the government ordered the termination of Amarnath Yatra and asked the pilgrims and tourists to leave Kashmir, the buzz gained ground that the Centre may either abrogate Articles 370 and 35A or divide the state into three parts.

Article 370 of the Constitution was discussed for five months by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the then PM of J&K, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, from May to October 1949. J&K was the only state that negotiated the terms of its membership with the Union of India.

“The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. And, Article 370 was to cover only J&K. The fate of Article 370, which provided special status to J&K, was decided in only 15 minutes in the Rajya Sabha,” a Srinagar-based lawyer said, adding that New Delhi by dividing the 173-year-old J&K state into two UTs had disempowered and partitioned the people.

Fearing a massive law and order problem, thousands of additional forces have been deployed in cities, towns and even villages across Kashmir to ensure strict curfew restrictions are in place.

 “I am still in shock and cannot explain in words what has happened to us,” Javeed Ahmed, a government employee, said, adding that its implications would be serious. He said Eid was round the corner but the festivity was missing.

A Kashmir University teacher, who did not wish to be named, said the Prime Minister’s explanation to scrap Article 370 looked like a “joke”. 

“The BJP was in power till last year with the PDP. There has been Central rule for over a year. What has the BJP done on the developmental front? They claim there is corruption in the state. But tell me, who gave an extension to a person chargesheeted in the Gulmarg land scam? All explanations given for scrapping Article 370 are unsatisfactory,” he said, adding that “Kashmir has lost everything”.

Separatists sense opportunity

A parallel ominous narrative is also shaping up in the Valley. The separatists and radical sections feel happy that the mainstream political camp, which always acted as a bridge between Kashmir and the Union of India, has been “decimated and shown its place and worth” by the BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

“Now, it is a direct fight between New Delhi and the people of Kashmir. For us, it is back to the 1920s and our resistance and fight would continue,” said a second-rung Hurriyat leader, wishing not to be named, as political activists and mainstream leaders across Kashmir have been detained by the Union Government, which would now directly rule the divided J&K.

Though Kashmir has remained by and large peaceful since the imposition of restrictions, a majority of people fear a rise of the “radical and violent” phase of militancy.

“With no possibility of a political dialogue, Kashmir militancy may graduate to terrorism, which will be deadly,” the university teacher said, adding that the “crackdown on political dissent may force the political movement of Kashmir to go completely underground”.

Such has been the intensity of the clampdown that almost the entire mainstream politicians are locked. Two former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are in solitary confinement. They have no access to communication.

“The Hurriyat has been decimated by the government and it no longer commands authority in Kashmir as most of its leaders and cadre are behind bars. But this leaves a political vacuum which would easily be filled by the underground militant leaders,” said a retired professor from Rawalpora.

“This time it would be different from the previous uprisings. In 2010 and 2016, the government waited for the people to tire out. Now New Delhi is surprised that why Kashmiris are not protesting on the streets. This time people have decided to test the resolve of the government forces by not provoking them and thus tiring them out. The people’s response would be calculated and long term,” said a businessman in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar.

Tough, tense days await the Valley.

In Dal-dal of despondency at srinagar’s favourite tourist spot

Boulevard Road, along the Dal Lake, in Srinagar, perhaps the most frequented tourist spot, presents a picture of despondency. The tourists have left, the tourism season has come to an abrupt and premature end, and there is nothing much to look forward to as the city braces for a tough period of turbulence. Even the shikarawallas have left their shikaras near the pier at many places on the lake. The boatmen have all gone home. The houseboats also sit idle. A number of checkpoints and bunkers have come up along Boulevard Road. All civilian vehicles are asked to stop at each checkpoint and the travellers are asked for curfew passes. Sceptical and angry, the boatmen are reluctant to talk. After much coaxing, the owner of a houseboat, Manzoor Ahmed, says: “Kashmir has lost its existence. The tourism season has ended before time. Even the Amarnath yatris did not come to Srinagar.” There are around 5,000 shikaras and 950 houseboats on Dal and people associated with them have lost their means of livelihood. A shikarawalla sitting closeby, Abdul Rashid, stares at the empty street: “There is nothing much to say.” — Sumayyah Qureshi   

Read also:

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