Three Years of abrogation - Kashmir Valley witnesses partial shutdown

Three Years of abrogation: Kashmir Valley witnesses partial shutdown

Protests mark anniversary of ‘black decision’

Kashmir witnessed a street protest by the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a partial spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar, as the revocation of J&K’s special status completed three years on Friday. On the other hand, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha participated in multiple events to promote different projects.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and her supporters held a protest march from the party’s Srinagar office but were stopped from heading towards the commercial hub Lal Chowk. Ms. Mufti said August 5, 2019 was “a black decision of the black day and was unacceptable to people of J&K”.

“We’ve vowed that we will get our flag and constitution back… They intend to make India a Hindu state. However, we will force them to resolve the issue of Kashmir for which lakhs of people sacrificed themselves,” Ms. Mufti said.

The National Conference organised a party meeting and resolved to pursue the case of restoration of Article 370 in the Supreme Court. The meeting was chaired by NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah and attended by vice-president Omar Abdullah.

“We will continue our peaceful struggle using all legal and constitutional means to challenge what was done to J&K on 5 th Aug 2019. The road ahead may be a long one, full of twists and turns but it’s not one NC will abandon,” Mr. Abdullah said.

CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said it was on this day in 2019 that the Central government robbed J&K of what it had achieved after a hard-fought battle, by locking up thousands overnight. “We reiterate our cast iron resolve to unitedly work for restoration of what was snatched from us,” he said.

Meanwhile, a shutdown was observed in parts of Srinagar’s old city. Shops remained closed in Hawal, Gojwara, Rajouri Kadal, Nowhatta and Khayar in the city. However, markets remained open in and around commercial hub Lal Chowk. A police spokesman said, “Paying no heed to bandh call, all shops are open and it is absolutely normal in Srinagar district.”

Attending a number of functions in Srinagar, L-G Sinha flagged off ‘The Great India Run’ from Lal Chowk. The marathoners will cover a distance of more than 800 km from Srinagar to New Delhi with the message of peace and national integration, an official said.

“There has been substantial development and augmentation of healthcare infrastructure in Kashmir. The abrogation of Article 370 has paved the way to good governance. J&K has taken a giant leap in every sector,” Mr. Sinha said, as he inaugurated a 150-bedded Ujala Cygnus super speciality hospital in Nowgam area.

What is life like in Kashmir 3 years after losing special status?

On August 5, 2019, life in India-administered Kashmir changed forever after New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had allowed the region limited autonomy.

India claimed that Kashmir’s semiautonomy had been a “root cause” of anti-India militancy.

India said its decision would improve the economic and social development of Kashmir, and embarked on a major political makeover of the Muslim-majority region.

New Delhi also opened land and jobs for people from across India while granting domicile and voting rights to thousands of Hindu refugees. The move unleashed anti-India protests, and New Delhi cracked down on dissent by imposing martial law, arresting protesters and shutting down communication.

India’s clampdown on Kashmiri journalists, political leaders and human rights activists also drew criticism.

Three years later, anti-India protests, stone pelting and frequent shutdowns have subsided.

Kashmir separatist movement on its last legs?
New Delhi has managed to crush the Kashmir separatist movement by jailing its leaders or intimidating them into silence. Many top separatist leaders died and others are in jail.

In September 2021, top separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani died at the age of 91 in Srinagar. The police did not allow the public to participate in his funeral, and Geelani was buried secretly.

Another separatist leader, Yasin Malik, has been convicted on money-laundering charges and is sitting in Delhi’s Tihar jail on a life sentence.

How India influences Kashmiri politics
As New Delhi tightened the noose around separatists, even pro-India Kashmiri leaders are under pressure for wanting to preserve the distinct identity of Kashmir.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has indicated that it doesn’t want independent Kashmiri leadership and would prefer to have its own people replace regional officials.

“The pro-India political space has shrunk rapidly. What was once moderate and constitutional is now considered anti-national and seditious,” Iltija Mufti, a political analyst and daughter of former Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, told.

Mufti said the BJP had abrogated Article 370 of the constitution to “collectively humiliate Kashmiris” because the region was the only Muslim-majority state in India.

“It also serves the purpose of satisfying their radicalized right-wing electorate and most importantly to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all by gradual demographic changes,” she said.

Since Article 370 was scrapped, India has passed laws allowing Hindus from elsewhere in India easier access to property in Kashmir.

BJP leader Priya Sethi has said the region is in a “transformational” mode.

“The region will be at par with other states of India as the Modi government has taken measures to improve the social and economic standards of the people,” Sethi said.

Tension with Pakistan
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of backing Kashmiri separatists, a claim denied by Islamabad.

In February 2021, New Delhi received a major security boost after Islamabad reaffirmed the 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC), a de facto border, dividing Kashmir between the two countries.

It resulted in a sharp decline in infiltration of militants from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Since then, Indian army officials have reported no cease-fire violations along the LoC and a very small number of militants infiltrating across the border.

With guns falling silent along the LoC, Indian security forces have pursued militants, killing nearly 500 of them in the past three years.

In 2022, at least 125 militants have so far been killed in Kashmir.

“The security situation in Kashmir and along the LoC has gotten better. Even stone pelting and street violence has ended while recruitment of local militants has declined,” Satish Dua, a retired Indian army general who served in Kashmir, told.

Targeting of civilians
During India’s clampdown, militants are targeting civilians. This year, they have killed at least 13 civilians, mostly local Muslims allegedly for their pro-India leanings.

On May 12, massive protests were triggered after militants killed a Hindu at an office in Budgam district.

Dua said militancy would take a long time to disappear entirely, but added that the current situation for ordinary people is safer than it has been in the past.

An estimated 200 militants, mostly local young men, are still active in Kashmir despite facing a shortage of arms and ammunition, triggered by the Pakistani army’s curbs on the LoC.

Dua said 30 years of armed insurgency couldn’t be undone overnight. “The alienation in the minds of people will take even longer. Because those born now will experience the benefits of prosperity in their future. It will take one or two generations to show results,” Dua said.

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