Two Years Later

The second anniversary of the reading down of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir indicated clearly that people and politics living on either side of the Redcliff Divide and the Line of Control have yet another day to further their narrative, reports Yawar Hussain

Srinagar, August 5, 2021, afternoon KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

As the reading down of Article 370 completed two years, the central government’s claim that the move led to the development in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state is being challenged by the unionist politicians.

People Alliance For Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the amalgam of political parties set up for the restoration of pre-August 5 status, has termed the new Naya Kashmir claims of the present regime as a “bundle of lies”.  The ruling party is seeking to get a benefit of the doubt by insisting that Jammu and Kashmir’s path to progress was interrupted by the Covid19 pandemic.

Development: A Hoax

The PAGD, which met on August 5, at the house of National Conference President Dr Farooq Abdullah termed the BJP’s Naya Kashmir “ a joke”.

The PAGD meeting on June 9, 2021. It was a skirted alliance as the last time it met, Sajad Lone was part of it. KL Image; Bilal Bahadur

Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, the alliance spokesperson, said the people have started questioning those in authority as to what they have achieved by “destroying the Naya Kashmir which came into being through the protracted historic struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Naya Kashmir, it is worth mentioning here, has a historic significance as it is an NC document drafted by the leftists in the early fifties and it was the literal governance bible of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The BJP is using the same terminology to describe its idea of Kashmir.

“We had hoped that the Government of India would realise the futility of its August 5, 2019 decisions when it had abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union Territories,” Tarigami said, insisting that the recent participation of Jammu and Kashmir politicians in the all-party meeting hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was ‘a leap of faith’. “But none of the measures required to begin rebuilding the shattered confidence of the people has been taken.”

The abrogation of Article 35-A, the Communist leader said has made the status of permanent residents redundant. “Protection of jobs and land rights was removed arbitrarily, which deepened the alienation and sense of insecurity in all the regions.”

On the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, the PAGD pointed out that tourism, trade, agriculture, horticulture and handicraft sectors are shattered.

“Employment opportunities are shrinking. There is rampant corruption. The fact remains that not a single claim of the government stands the test of scrutiny,” the PAGD spokesperson said.

The continued denial of civil liberties and democratic rights was flagged by the spokesman. “Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of all sections of our people including employees on different pretexts continue and issuing of dictates like the recent one about not providing security clearance for passports and government services to anyone involved in law and order and stone-pelting cases’ is one more addition,” he pointed out. “Adverse police report cannot be a substitute for being found guilty in a court of law.”

Reports said that since August 5, 2019, as many as 2300 people were booked under UAPA in 1200 cases and 954 were detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. Right now, 1100 (46 per cent) of the UAPA and 284 of PSA detainees (30 per cent) are still in jails. This was in addition to 5500 people who were retained in preventive custody under Section 107 of the CrPC in 2019 alone.

Earlier, the police would book more people under PSA but now the law enforcing agency prefers the UAPA because it is more stringent.

Omar Speak

Former Chief Minister and National Conference Vice President, Omar Abdullah said that he would have welcomed any “development” in Jammu and Kashmir if it had happened post-August 5.

National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah on Monday, March 22, 2021, chairing Provincial review meeting of the Party’s Parent, YNC, Women’s Wing, and segment in charges here at party headquarters. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

“There is so much talk of development, development. We would welcome that if it really happened. The administration needs to go beyond inaugurating projects for which work had begun during the time of elected governments.”

About the claims of substantial improvement in the law and order situation, he said: “You cannot gag the people and then claim all is well. In the last two years, people are not allowed to do even peaceful protests. The due process of law is ignored. On the one hand, a rosy picture of the situation is painted and on the other hand, the Centre tells Parliament that statehood will be restored when the situation normalises.”

Omar said the restoration of statehood and holding of early elections were promised at the highest levels by the centre. “That should be the order — restoration of full, undiluted statehood, followed by assembly polls.”

NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar sees the administration’s report card as “laughable” as it, among other things, has termed a Wazwan feast and a Tulip festival, as its achievements. “If this was the development for which they deprived us of our rights then it speaks for itself,” he said.

Dar said his party has no issues if some refugees were granted domiciles. “The BJP must present a white paper on what they have done for the 1.25 crore people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. “They have nothing to show rather than to inaugurate the projects started by the previous governments.”

The 76 Slides

The government designed a beautiful booklet comprising 76 slides detailing its performance in the last two years. While it was in very short supply in Srinagar, some of its slides were featured by various Indian embassies in Europe and Central Asia.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha during his visit to Kulgam

In the last two years, the booklet Jammu and Kashmir: Towards Prosperity, Progress & Peace said in the last two years, the government applied 890 central laws to Jammu Kashmir, repealed 205 “unjust and discriminatory” laws and applied after modification 130 other laws. The reservations other than SC and ST were taken to 22 per cent by offering 4 per cent reservation in jobs to 8,75,000 Pahari speaking population. The other beneficiaries include 41684 families of Displaced Persons; 5764 West Pakistan Refugees; and 350 thousand people living on the borders and 44000 migrant families.

Apart from holding the DDC polls, the document lists countless projects including railway and highway that were either completed or were in the final stages of implementation. Handing over projects to NHPC is another highlight. The document said that of the 2357 development projects that were languishing were taken up by negotiating a market loan of Rs 7110 crore and so far 1100 projects were completed at an investment of Rs 1110 crore.

However, certain media outlets saw the systems allowing non-locals to purchase land, non-local spouses Jammu Kashmir origin women getting domicile status, binning of Jammu Kashmir’s flag and constitution; and denial of jobs, passports and other benefits to people involved in stone-pelting or subversive activities as the main changes that took place in last two years.

Bundle of Lies

PDP spokesperson Syed Suhail Bukhari sees August 5 has as “a reminder of the betrayal” by the government of India. He said the premise of development on which Article 370 was read down was the “biggest” lie told to the people around the world.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti’s protest march was interrupted by Jammu and Kashmir Police on August 5, 2021. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“They said the situation would improve and then lied again stating that the people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted Article 370 to go,” he said, adding that the government of India has failed on all fronts.

“Take up any indices of development; we are better than the projected model states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and others. Take the reports of independent institutions and BJP’s claims are a bundle of lies.”

If Article 370 was a hurdle in development, he said then one needs to see as to how much development has taken place after it ceased to exist.

Meanwhile, PDP, led by President Mehbooba Mufti, also took out a protest march marking the day as a “black day”.

Joining the Bandwagon

The Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, which blames the traditional parties for the revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A, also acknowledges the development deficit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Altaf Bukhari in Delhi

By now it is explicit to everyone in Delhi, its founder Altaf Bukhari said that Article 370 was not an impediment in the development.

“Unfortunately, we have not witnessed any major development taking place since August 5, 2019, as was projected by the advocates of abrogation of Article 370. Rather, ways of cultural imperialism have been facilitated by the bureaucratic regimes who seem hell-bent to convert our heritage sites into commercial entities,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari said that though there was a need to do away with some gender issues in Article 35-A the way this law was completely annulled was totally unjustified and arbitrary in nature.

“There could have been some respite for the people if the promises made on development would have been delivered,” Bukhari’s colleague, Rafi Ahmad Mir said. “Alienation among people is growing. There is no development, no employment generation and no investment has come in. The present bureaucratic set-up doesn’t listen to common people nor does it pay any heed to the problems of the people.”

United Yet Divided

The Peoples Conference, which parted ways with the PAGD, termed August 5, as a blot on the democratic system.

PC Vice President Abdul Gani Vakil said the promises of “development” turned out to be a lie.

A group photo of Peoples Conference leaders on Saturday, August 7, 2021. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

“Which investor came to Jammu and Kashmir? The government should give the data as to how many people have opened new business units here,” Vakil said, adding that there has been no employment generation in Jammu and Kashmir. “On top of this, the government is throwing  people out of the government jobs along with denying new jobs and passport facilities to the young boys who were once allegedly involved in stone-pelting.”

Only The BJP

The BJP was the only party that celebrated the day. The party took out a Tiranga rally from its party headquarters in Jammu.

Ravinder Raina (BJP)

Ravinder Raina said that August 5 marks the revoking of Article 370 which was a wall of “hatred”. “It (Article 370) only had been promoting militancy and Pakistani sentiments.”

Successive Congress governments since 1947, Raina said had kept two flags and constitutions in the country which was undone by the BJP in 2019 in the “interest” of the country.

Talking about the development, Raina said the refugees from West Pakistan along with Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, the Gujjar and Bakerwals, Valmiki community members and the women, in general, have benefited from the reading down of Article 370.

“The militancy, separatist politics and stone-pelting have vanished from the Valley,” he said. “There can be no bigger development than the fact that India now only has one flag.”

The party also celebrated the day in Kashmir. The main function was organised at high-security Church Lane the party National General Secretary, Tarun Chugh, presided over. Chugh said after the repeal of Article 370 and 35 A, the militancy and stone-pelting has witnessed a sharp drop.

Conspicuous Absentees

Barring the erstwhile allies, the PDP and the BJP, no other party took to the streets for or against the developments of August 5, 2019. The PAGD constituents including the NC met in their office while the other parties outside the amalgam including the People’s Conference and the Apni Party issued mere statements on the occasion.

In Jammu, Congress circumspectly restricted their demand to the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. In Kashmir, the party didn’t even convene a meeting to mark the day. Those who were approached by the media talked about the developmental deficit.

A New Landmark

The second-anniversary happenings within Kashmir and on the two sides of the Redcliff divide suggested that yet another day has emerged for the people and the political class. Symbolic events organised by PDP – for restoration of the special position and by BJP in celebration of it, were pushed to the sideline when the law enforcing agencies resorted to lock-breaking of business establishments to undo a voluntary hartal. These images that splashed on social media gave a new angle to the story twisted by politics.

BJP National General Secretary Tarun Chugh Celebrated Azaadi Ka Maha Utsav at Church Lane Srinagar, senior BJP leaders of Kashmir were present on this occasion. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

In Srinagar, the political class was criticised by the people – using social media, to convey that by linking the August 5, decision making with development, they are getting increasingly closer to the narrative initiated by the central government.

To counter the nationwide celebrations by the BJP, Islamabad observed the day as Youm-e-Istehsal, the day of the exploitation. People from all sides of the story, wrote longer opinions in the media to take supplement their narrative. Dr Jitendra Singh wrote in a piece in The Indian Express, to be countered by PAGD spokesman Tarigami. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi wrote a detailed opinion in Dawn as  Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wrote in a European website apart from sending a letter to the United Nations, his favourite pastime. Prime Ministers, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, as everybody knows, both tweeted on the occasion.

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