Article 370 repeal in Kashmir:Jammu and Kashmir is commemorating the three-year anniversary of the abolition of its special constitutional status via Article 370, as well as the state’s bifurcation and downgrading into two union territories.
One aspect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has come to the fore in tackling the curse of stone-pelting and frequent bandhs in Kashmir, following the abrogation of Article 370 in the last three years.
After nearly three decades, schools are no longer forced to close due to separatist groups’ calls for a strike. Schools in Kashmir have reopened after being closed for nearly three years due to long curfews, the security situation, and Covid-19 restrictions.
In Kashmir, you can walk around the city and countryside without fear of being stoned. Mob violence had rendered every location unsafe. Mosques were not immune. The historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar has been transformed into a weekly stone-pelting arena. So much so that a police officer was lynched in the mosque grounds on a holy night in the Islamic calendar.
That era appears to be coming to an end. Even a simple slogan can now land you in jail under the strict Public Safety Act and the anti-terrorist law UAPA.
Separatist leaders, whose entire political capital was built on a series of shutdown calls and protests, have been pushed to the margins.
However, this is only one aspect of a much larger issue. The fear of guns has grown, and militancy has gone underground like never before. Nobody knows who is a militant or who will appear next with a pistol or an AK-47 rifle.
Since May 12, when Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit government employee, was killed while working at a government office in Budgam, over 5,000 Kashmiri Pandit government employees have been absent from work due to fear. Since 2010, these Pandits had returned to the Valley as part of the Prime Minister’s employment package. The majority of them have returned to Hindu-majority Jammu, where they had fled after being driven out of the Valley in 1990.
At least six Hindus have been targeted in the last six months, forcing government employees from the Scheduled Cast community to leave their offices and return to Jammu. The Kashmir Valley has no SC population, but under a law passed by the former J&K assembly, Scheduled Caste candidates are entitled to 8% of jobs even in districts with no Dalit population.
Following a series of targeted killings in May and June, both Pandit and Dalit employees are protesting, demanding relocation to Jammu with government jobs. In the Valley, none of them feel safe.
Despite the Valley’s saturation with security forces, a deep sense of insecurity prevails. Since 2019, after repeal Article 370 in Kashmir the number of forces deployed in Kashmir has increased dramatically.
The additional forces brought in for the security of the Amarnath Yatra demonstrate how serious things are – several dozen troops are deployed for each yatri’s protection. It is now unquestionably the most protected and guarded pilgrimage in the world.
Because of the security concerns, no local residents are allowed to walk or drive when Yatra convoys pass through. This militarization has serious consequences. Even the number of pilgrims visiting the holy cave has decreased significantly this year, with only three lakh yatris visiting instead of the expected eight lakh.
Because the entire emphasis is on security, governance has taken a back seat. Development and investment claims do not correspond to reality on the ground.
The chasm between the people and the administration of the union territory is growing by the day. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s monthly radio talk show “Awaam Ki Awaaz” appears to be the only means of communication.