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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 39, New Delhi, September 14, 2019

In the Aftermath of Abrogation of Article 370

Sunday 15 September 2019

by Ishfaq Majid and Varinder Singh

In 1949, a special provision was added to India’s Constitution providing autonomy to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Article was allowing the State to have its own constitution, a separate flag, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence, and communications. Another provision later added under Article 370 was Article 35A that gives special privileges to permanent residents, including State Government jobs and the exclusive right to own property in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 5, 2019 the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced the Centre Government’s decision on abrogating the provision of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the PM announced the bifurcation of the State into Union Territories. He stated that the government’s move will bring more opportunities for development in Jammu and Kashmir. He also invited the investors and industry to come and invest in the region which will bring economic growth and employment opportunity in the region. He added that before abrogation of Article 370, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of various guarantees and schemes that people in other States enjoy. The Sanitation Worker Act and several laws to stop atrocities against Dalits were missing in J&K.

Before the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35 A, the Government of India sent 38,000+ security personnels to the Valley claiming a possible terror attack might be carried out by militant groups. The common masses in the Valley were in a state of confusion as rumours of scrapping Articles 370 and 35A were being shared through most of the social media platforms. Ultimately on August 5, 2019, when the people of the Valley opened their eyes, they were surprised to see a curfew-like situation and the communication blackout in the whole Valley. This was the first move by the Government of India to stop the sharing of information.

After scrapping Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir Police in a statement said that 280 law and order incidents took place in the State between August 5-7. Among these 280 incidents, 160 such incidents took place in Srinagar. Around 22 incidents took place in Pulwama and 18 in Baramulla. (The Indian Express) On August 17, the Valley recorded 24 such incidents, the highest number of incidents in a single day.

Most of the newspapers in the Valley are unable to update the e-paper versions on their websites. The newspapers are badly affected by communication and internet blackout. The reporters working in Kashmir are facing trouble gaining entry to areas surrounded by security forces. The streets in the whole Valley are filled with barriers to restrict the movement of protestors.

The students of Kashmir, who are pursuing their studies out of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, are facing tough times and many of them are facing financial shortage. Though the administration in Kashmir provided the people access to the satellite phones, their number is very low. The people, who came for making calls to their loved ones, were supposed to wait in queues for hours. Though the administration restored the landline in Kashmir after 20 days of suspension, that too proved like a joke as it wasn’t implemented as was told.

The majority of the people in the Valley use mobile phones and the number of landline phones is very much low. The educational institutions in the Valley are closed and this is badly affecting the education of the students. The educational institutions are closed in the Valley since August 5.

AMID a communication shutdown and other restrictions in Kashmir, the security agencies arrested over 500 people, including political leaders and activists, as the administration considers them a threat to peace and tran-quillity in the Kashmir Valley. They include Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Sajad Ghani Lone and Shah Faisal. (The Hindu)

On the eve of Eid-ul-Azha on August 12, 2019, the Indian security forces maintained tight restrictions across the Kashmir Valley fearing protests against the revocation of the special status of the region. The streets and markets were deserted as a result of the security lock-down. However, the television channel “Gulistan” worked like a messenger for the people of the Valley by telecasting a special programme “Apnun k Naam Paigam” where the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir who are currently out of the State, came up with their video and audio messages for their loved ones living in the Kashmir Valley.

A massive protest was witnessed during the day after the announcement of the government’s move to abrogate Article 370. Several people protested the government’s decision. It resulted in the cut off internet and calling services in many places of the region. Satya Pal Malik, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, made an assuring statement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir saying that there will be no threat to their identity and culture. He also justified the imposition of curfew saying that it was only to secure the citizens’ lives. Also, he assured the youth of Jammu and Kashmir with the promise of filling 50,000 vacant government jobs in the region.

The decision also had some international influence. It spiked tensions between India and Pakistan. In an interview with The New York Times, the Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, warned that if the UNO failed to halt India’s decision on Kashmir, the tension will result in “direct military confrontation” between India and Pakistan. Soon after Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed made an announcement to stop the Samjhauta Express train service that linked India and Pakistan. Also, Pakistan’s Prime Minister talked of issues related to Kashmir with the Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Khan also anticipated Saudi Arabia and the UAE to play an active role in urging India to take back its measures on Kashmir. Also, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, wrote a letter highlighting the context and consequences of India’s move on Kashmir to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Security Council and all members of the United Nations. Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan President, also showed his contentment with the Indian Government’s decision saying that the Indian Government’s decision to scrap Article 370 will prove promising for the people in Jammu and Kashmir. He also urged Pakistan to stop using fanatical violence in the region.

While several Indian political leaders were in favour of the decision, the Congress opposed the scrapping of the Article. The party leaders are of the opinion that scrapping of Article 370 has nothing to do with the welfare of the people living in Jammu and Kashmir. P. Chidambaram believed that scrapping of Article 370 is a ‘cardinal blunder’. As the Article is scrapped, it becomes an important duty for the adminis-tration to restore the communication lines. The administration in Kashmir should at least restore the incoming calls on the mobile phones as it will help lots of people, who are out of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, to talk to their families in Kashmir. As promised by Home Minister Amit Shah, the status of Statehood should be restored as soon as possible. There should be also some provisions for the local people with respect to government jobs and security of land. The political leaders, as well as the common people, should be released immediately.

Ishfaq Majid is a Ph.D scholar in the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. He is currently working in the field of ICT in Education. Varinder Singh is a Ph.D scholar in the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. He is currently working in the area of Educational Psychology.

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