By Ishfaq Majid & Varinder Singh
In 1949, a special provision was added to India’s constitution providing autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article allowed the state to have its own constitution, a separate flag, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence, and communications. Another provision later added under Article 370 was 35A that gave special privileges to permanent residents, including state government jobs and the exclusive right to own property in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. On 5 August, 2019, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced the central government’s decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the PM announced the bifurcation of state into two union territories. He stated that the government’s move will bring more opportunities for development in Jammu and Kashmir. He also invited the investors and industry to come and invest in the region which will bring economic growth and employment opportunity in the region. He added that before abrogation of Article 370, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of various guarantees and schemes that people in other states enjoyed. The sanitation worker act and several laws to stop atrocities against Dalits were missing in J&K.
Before the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A, the Govt of India sent 38000+ security personnel to the valley, claiming that a possible terror attack might be carried out by militant groups. The common masses in the valley were in a state of confusion as rumours of scrapping Article 370 and 35A were being shared through most of the social media platforms. On 5 August, 2019, when the people of the valley opened their eyes, they were surprised to see a curfew-like situation and the communication blackout in whole valley. This was the first move by the Government of India to stop sharing information.
After scraping Article 370, the Jammu and Kashmir police in a statement said that 280 law and order incidents took place in the State between August 5 and 7. Among these 280 incidents, 160 such incidents took place in Srinagar. Around 22 incidents took place in Pulwama and 18 in Baramulla (The Indian Express). On August 17, the Valley recorded 24 such incidents – the highest number of incidents in a single day.
Most newspapers in the valley are unable to update the e-paper versions on their websites. The newspapers are badly affected by communication and internet blackout. The reporters working in Kashmir are facing trouble gaining entry to areas surrounded by security forces. The streets in the whole valley are filled with barriers to restrict the movement of protesters. The students of Kashmir who are pursuing their studies out of the state are facing tough times and many of them are facing financial shortage. Though the administration in Kashmir provided the people access to the satellite phones, their number was very low. The people who came for making calls to their loved ones were supposed to wait in lines for hours. Though the administration restored the landline in Kashmir after 20 days of suspension, that too proved like a joke as it wasn’t implemented as was told. The majority of the people in the valley use mobile phones and the number of landline phones is very low. The educational institutions in the valley are closed since 5 August, badly affecting the education of the students.
Amid a communication shutdown and other restrictions in Kashmir, the security agencies arrested over 500 people, including political leaders and activists, as the administration considers them a threat to peace and tranquillity in the Kashmir valley. These include Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Sajad Gani Lone and Shah Faisal (The Hindu).
On the eve of Eid-Ul-Azha on 12 August 2019, the Indian security forces maintained tight restrictions across the valley fearing protests against the revocation of the special status of the region. The streets and markets were deserted as a result of the security lockdown. However, the television channel “Gulistan” worked like a messenger for the people of the valley by telecasting a special program “Apnun k Naam Paigam” in which the people from J&K who are currently out of the state came up with video and audio messages for their loved ones living in Kashmir.
A massive protest was witnessed during the day after the government’s announcement to abrogate Article 370. It resulted in cutting out internet and calling services in the many places of the region. Satya Pal Malik, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, made an assuring statement to the people in which he said that there would be no threat to their identity and culture. He also justified the imposition of curfew saying that it was only to secure their lives. He assured the youth of Jammu and Kashmir that the government will fill up 50,000 vacant posts for jobs in the region.
The government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 spiked tension between India and Pakistan. In an interview with The New York Times, the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that if the UN failed to halt India’s decision on Kashmir, the tension will result in “direct military confrontation” between two countries. Soon after the declaration, Pakistan’s Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, made an announcement to stop the Samjhauta Express train services that linked India and Pakistan. Also, Khan talked about issues related to Kashmir with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He also expected Saudi Arabia and the UAE to play an active role in urging India to revoke its decision. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan Foreign Minister, wrote a letter highlighting the context and consequences of India’s move on Kashmir to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Security Council and all members of the United Nations.
While Pakistan tried to arouse international passion to stop India, Hamid Karzai, former Afghan President, said that the Indian government’s decision to scrap Article 370 will usher in a promising future for the people in Jammu and Kashmir. He also urged Pakistan to stop using fanatical violence in the region.
The Congress Party opposed scrapping of the article. The party leaders opined that abrogation of Article 370 had nothing to do with the welfare of the people living in Jammu and Kashmir. P. Chidambaram believed that scrapping of Article 370 is a ‘Cardinal Blunder’.
As Article 370 stands abrogated, it becomes an important duty for the administration to restore the communication lines. The administration in Kashmir should at least restore incoming calls on mobile phones as it will help people living outside the state to talk to their families in Kashmir. As promised by the Home Minister Amit Shah, the status of statehood should be given as soon as possible. There should also be some provisions for the local people with respect to government jobs and security of land. The common people should not be made a scapegoat in this political game.
Ishfaq Majid is a Ph.D. Scholar in the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. He is currently working in the area of ICT in Education. His writings have earlier appeared in The Rising Kashmir, Economic and Political Weekly, South Asia Journal, London Institute of South Asia and Counter-Currents.
Varinder Singh is a Ph.D. Scholar in the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. He is currently working in the area of Educational Psychology.
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