2019 A Year of Shock and Dismay

Kashmir Valley is Unlikely to return to Normalcy anytime Soon

31 December 2019

The Government of India's unexpected decision on 5 August 2019 to abrogate provisions of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution conferring special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories took everyone in the state by utter surprise and left most utterly shocked.

The most devastated were the people of the Kashmir Valley which has seen a strong pro-independence movement along with armed insurrection during the past thirty years.

Most people of the Valley could not believe that New Delhi could unilaterally strip them of their special status and privileges. Equally shocking was the decision to detain mainstream political leaders and cut off Internet services. A clampdown was enforced by the induction of a record number of paramilitary personnel into the Valley.

Kashmir was under complete lockdown for weeks and the situation even today has not normalised after nearly five months as we step into the New Year. Internet services mostly remain suspended and over thirty key leaders remain under detention.

True there were many in the state who celebrated the decision but these were almost entirely in the two other regions of the state - Jammu and Ladakh. In the newly carved out Ladakh union territory it was the mainly Buddhist Ladakhi portion that celebrated while the Kargil part populated mainly by Shia Muslims felt they had been given short shrift as they neither were for a union territory and nor did they appreciate the dominance of Ladakh that would now result.

The Jammu population also largely welcomed the move because of the feeling that this would end the dominance of ethnic Kashmiris who ruled and tightly controlled the state since independence. The business community here also felt that the end of the special status would break the region's isolation and open it up to investment and trade from rest of India.

But here too there are apprehensions, mainly about land rights and the potential for job losses to outsiders. These could become major issues in the Jammu and Ladakh regions in the future.

As far as the average Kashmiri is concerned, the August 5 2019 move by the Government of India is completely unacceptable. They see their very existence, identity and future threatened by the abrogation of Article 370 which protected them from outsiders and also from many laws applicable to the rest of the country.

To assume that the present calm in the Kashmir Valley proves that the Kashmiri has accepted New Delhi's decision is wrong. Protests are muted for various reasons. People there are still in shock and most do not know what to do next. They fear open, large scale protest would invite a harsh response from the administration. Pakistan too seems to be in a restrained mood in its support to the militancy.

There is huge resentment simmering under the surface in the Kashmir Valley. To believe that everything is normal and that people have accepted New Delhi's decisions would be living in fool's paradise. Only 2020 will tell what lies ahead.

Md. Sadiq

31 December 2019