Conflicting reports on Kashmir Valley Situation

14 October 2019

Reports on the prevailing situation in Jammu & Kashmir state following the abrogation of Article 370 and its bifurcation into two entities paint a confusing picture. Some reports claim that there is normalcy while others stress that the clampdown and protests continue. Who to believe?

The BJP government leaders in New Delhi seem to be following the line that everything is normal in J&K state, including the volatile Kashmir Valley, which has always been the epicentre of discontent against New Delhi.

On 6 October this year, senior BJP leader and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar stated the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is 'normal' and the people are 'happy' with the dilution of Article 370 as they will now get benefits and entitlements on a par with those in the rest of the country. He said this during an interaction with PTI journalists in New Delhi.

Javadekar repeatedly assured the journalists that the situation in the State was 'good' and 'normal' and the people in the Valley “are supporting the decision... They are welcoming the decision because it will benefit them.”

It appears that the Central government's unanimous decisions on abrogating articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and the separation of the Ladakh region has not generated visible resentment or protest in the Jammu and Ladakh regions. Elsewhere, however, reports suggest that things are not well at all.

This is particularly true of the restive Kashmir Valley which is the most populated and politically volatile part of the J&K state. Here the clampdown as well as the communications blockade continues in full force at the time of writing, although the authorities have agreed to restore mobile phone services to post-paid subscribers.

Citizens of the Kashmir Valley are continuing to observe silent protest and have not opened their shops of business establishment for two months. This has tacitly been admitted by the state administration, which issued full page advertisements in the Kashmir Valley newspapers questioning the impact of the ongoing boycott.

'Closed shops. No public transport? Who benefits?' This was the question posed by full-page government advertisements on the front pages of several local English-language dailies. The asked parents to secure their children's education by sending them to colleges and schools, which had re-opened but were deserted.

The advertisements went on to ask: 'Will we let a few posters and threats push us into not resuming our businesses, not earning our legitimate livelihood?' This was in clear reference to the fact that most economic activity in the Kashmir Valley have ground to a halt.

The New Delhi based television news channel, News18 on 10 October reported that while the central government has been claiming Jammu and Kashmir has been peaceful since it was stripped of its special status on August 5, “there have been 306 incidents of stone pelting in the last two months. According to an internal document of the security forces, close to a 100 security personnel, including 89 from the central paramilitary forces, have been injured in the stone pelting protests sparked by the government's move to effectively scrap Article 370 of the Constitution.”

The governor's administration, on the other hand, has maintained that except for sporadic stone pelting incidents, Kashmir Valley has been peaceful and has witnessed fewer protests than in the 2016 agitation following Burhan Wani's killing.

The tourism sector has been badly hit by the silent protests and government clampdown. There has been virtually no tourist inflow after 5 August when the central government issued an advisory asking tourists to leave the Kashmir Valley. Houseboats, hotels, restaurants and tourist spots are deserted.

This does not seem like normalcy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi admitted that things were not normal in Kashmir Valley unlike his ministerial colleagues when he told supporters at a political rally in Maharashtra state that it would take not more than four more months for the situation to become normal in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

With conflicting views and reports, outsiders cannot be blamed if they are confused. In such circumstances, people are inclined to believe the worst and rarely the government's version. One can only hope that the Indian Prime Minister was right and peace and normalcy will return to the Kashmir Valley in a few months.

Md. Sadiq

14 October 2019