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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 1, New Delhi, December 19, 2020

Glimpses of Life and Livelihood in Kashmir | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 19 December 2020, by Arup Kumar Sen

More than a year has passed since the BJP-led Government of India abrogated Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and the State of Jammu and Kashmir lost its relative autonomy granted in the Constitution of India. The erstwhile State was converted into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The fundamental question rarely asked in the mainstream media is how administrative restructuring of the State affected everyday life of the people in the Kashmir Valley.

Ayjaz Wani of the Observer Research Foundation made an attempt to document the life in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in his report titled Life in Kashmir After Article 370 (ORF Special Report, January 2020). The author interviewed different sections of the people of Kashmir to understand the impact of abrogation of Article 370 on their lives. To put it in the words of the Report: “The abrogation of autonomy without the consent of the Kashmiris has raised the threat perception among the people of the Valley…After August 5, people are feeling a heightened sense of fear and suspicion regarding their identity and cultural issues such as religion, customs, and language”.

A few expressed their fears to the author of the Report that the new rules being formulated by the central government to give domicile rights would further limit employment opportunities for the local youth and also “lead to a demographic disruption in the Valley”.

The economy of the Kashmir Valley collapsed after the reorganization of the State. Again, to put it in the words of the Report:

“Core Sectors of the economy of J&K have witnessed a steep decline after the abrogation of Article 370. Due to the communication blockade, curfews, and militant threats, in the past five months alone, the economy of Kashmir lost INR 178.78 billion and more than 90,000 jobs in the sectors of handicraft, tourism and information technology. The horticulture sector is in distress, tourism is in shambles, and students are suffering because of the ongoing internet blockade. It is for the first time in the past 70 years that rural Kashmir is facing such a great degree of economic slowdown. The apples industry in Kashmir, worth INR 80 billion which contributes eight percent of J&K’s GDP, has been worst affected”.

Ayjaz Wani conducted interviews with 180 individuals in Kashmir between November 10 and December 16, 2019, to get their views about the annulment of Article 370. What he came to know is the complete loss of trust of the Kashmiris in the sanctity of the Indian State.To put in his own words: “Without exception, all the participants in the various discussions initiated by this author thought that they are now living in a ‘colony’ and are being denied their basic rights. They accuse New Delhi of abusing the Constitution of India and its democratic ethos, and neglecting Kashmiri sentiments”.

In the wake of the coronavirus-induced national lockdown, the socio-economic life of India has been shattered. We can imagine the ‘bare life’ of the people of Kashmir in present-day India ruled by the BJP.

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