From Sunday to Sunday: One that ended Kashmir’s connectivity, another that may end some curbs

ZAHOOR MALIK. Dated: 10/14/2019 1:42:57 PM

SRINAGAR, Oct 13: It was on August 4, a Sunday, that Kashmiris were unaware of what lay in store for them the next day. Apart from changing the socio-political landscape of the state forever, the people were put under severe spell of restrictions.
Ever since, it’s the tenth Sunday today. And, there are hopes of atleast some of the curbs being lifted tomorrow. It’s been ten long weeks. Ten Sundays ago (August 4), life was normal in Kashmir to a greater extent. However, there was lot of uncertainty, panic and fear amid rushing of thousands of troops from outside and their subsequent deployment here and an advisory by government to tourists, Amarnath yatris and non–local labourers to leave the Valley immediately because of “possible attacks.”
Nobody at that time exactly knew what was going to happen the next day (August 5- Monday)-Will the special status of J&K be scrapped or attack carried out on militant camps across the line of control (LoC)? The people kept on guessing.
This Sunday, today, the people know what is going to happen tomorrow - postpaid mobile phones service will be restored at 12 noon as the governor’s administration made an announcement in this connection yesterday. Subsequently, lakhs of cell phones will become active again putting to an end to some extent the hardships people faced for 70 long days due to communication clampdown.
But nobody knows when the internet will be restored, shops and business establishments reopen, public transport will be back on roads, students will go back to schools, colleges and universities, and detained political leadership and others released. The government spokesman Rohit Kansal at a press conference yesterday said that the administration is making all arrangements to further normalise the situation and urged the business community and transporters to resume their work without any fear.
The mobile phone, landline phone and internet services were snapped by the government on August 5 when entire Kashmir was brought under a siege. Tight restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles were placed in view of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A and converting of J&K state into two union territories.
Much has changed in Kashmir on the political and security fronts between August 4 to October 13.The biggest change is that J&K is losing its special status provided by Indian constitution. The state has lost its constitution and its flag. The state flag was removed from the Civil Secretariat much before October 31 when J&K state will formally get converted into two union territories - J&K and Ladakh.
Because of massive changes on August 5, Kashmir continues to be shut since then, even as restrictions have been lifted from 99 percent areas. The internet and mobile phone services are suspended. Schools, colleges, and universities have been reopened recently but without students. However, the authorities have issued date-sheet for various examinations.
Leaders of mainstream parties like National Conference, PDP, Congress and Peoples Conference now find themselves no different from those of the separatist camp. Three chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are under detention. Farooq under PSA at his residence, while Omar and Mehbooba at state guest houses, converted into sub jails. It was on the intervention of the court that their party leaders or family members met them in the beginning.
There is no word as to when exactly the leaders will be set free along with a number of detained former ministers and legislators. However, some mainstream leaders were released in recent past after they reportedly gave an undertaking that they would not create any law and order problem after their release.
NC, PDP, Congress and Peoples Conference boycotted the block development council (BDC) elections scheduled on October 24. It is to be seen whether the parties will contest the assembly polls of J&K union territory in future. However, there are no signs of the assembly polls in two years. The multi phased delimitation process is yet to begin and will take over 14 months for completion.
The assembly polls will be held only after the process is over and more seats added to the assembly. Some NC leaders have been telling that their party can contest only after the statehood is restored to J&K. However, there is yet no word from the PDP on the issue. Both parties right now are demanding immediate release of their leaders unconditionally. Only time can tell whether NC and PDP will make restoration of Articles 370 and 35 A a pre- condition for participating into polls or join unconditionally the elections, whenever held.
Going by the present stance of government of India and BJP, the regional parties NC and PDP, which were face of India in Kashmir in past, are no more needed now. The central leaders blame the local parties for misleading the Kashmiris through emotional issues, stopping development and integration of J&K with India, and looting the state particularly during the rule of Abdullah and Mufti families. Centre says its steps to remove Articles 370 and 35 A are aimed at starting a new era of development in Kashmir and providing women and children same rights as are being enjoyed by women and children in other parts of the country. Centre says Article 370 only strengthened separatism and militancy in Kashmir. It has promised to restore the statehood of J&K soon.
Centre seems currently busy in the process of mentoring a new breed of young leadership in Valley to whom the total integration of J&K with India is acceptable. Besides BJP leadership also aims at strengthening its party in Kashmir and win seats in the Valley to form its own government after assembly polls. This is also evident from the statements of the party leaders.
A demand for the release of detained political leadership in Kashmir has been made at international level recently more particularly by USA and other countries besides UN. According to reports, even if the mainstream leaders are released , a number of them are likely to be booked in corruption cases and arrested again later.
So far as the separatist camp is concerned, which was on the forefront of agitations in 2008, 2010 and 2016, it is almost non- functional this time. Senior leaders are in Tihar jail after cases were registered against them in various matters, while ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are under house arrest at their respective residences.
The ongoing shutdown is spontaneous. No separatist or mainstream party has given any call for it. Some shops and business establishments reopen till 9 AM from early morning hours in some areas. Public transport is off the roads even as the movement of private vehicles in increasing on the roads day by day.
On the security front, there are indications that the deployment of additional troops will continue for more time and constructions of hundreds of new security bunkers in different parts of Valley is a part of the process. The government, during its press conference yesterday, said that there are reports of militants planning major and small attacks in Kashmir. As per reports quoting officials 60 to 80 militants have infiltrated into Kashmir since August 5. The central government has stated that it will carry out attacks across LoC in case of a militant attack. The Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan recently did not rule out a nuclear war in case of war with India.

 

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