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EXCLUSIVE: Two Years Of Abrogation Of Article 370: Kashmiris Need Succour, Not Just Statehood

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Kolkata: When Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, a confirmed motormouth, exhorts Kashmiris to join his countrymen assuring them of freedom to choose their next course of action, it creates an uproar this side of the border. Our reactions are valid since Khan’s PTI has been bombarded with allegations of rigging during the recently held polls in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

A stooge of the Army, the former cricketer-turned-Premier has himself been chastised for failing to create Naya Pakistan. With graft, unemployment, accusations of harbouring extremists coupled with acquiescing to its all-weather friend China, hogging the limelight, Khan deserves a rap on the knuckles for his ineptitude in governance.

Accepted! But what about the Kashmiris (irrespective of religious identity) on the Indian side? Are they brimming with confidence in the hope of a prosperous future? Doubts raised and irrefutably so.

It’s been two years since the Narendra Modi-led government unveiled its vision of a Naya Kashmir abrogating Articles 370 and 35A, making way for the integration of Jammu & Kashmir into the mainstream of course in the process bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Modi on innumerable occasions harped on the fact that the annulment of the special provisions would usher in an era of peace, camaraderie and progress in the region. But has his vision been a reality?

Terror attacks are rampant, locals complain of coercion, most developmental projects are yet to take off and add to it the centre’s decision to put top Kashmiri leaders into detention (before releasing them after almost more than a year) – these do not portray a pleasant sight and the house arrest of the leaders smacks of authoritarianism stemming out of abject insecurity.

“You mean to say the bifurcation has worked wonders for the people in the valley? Do a survey and you will get the answer for sure. The ground reality hasn’t improved a bit,” a Kashmiri journalist told The Lateralz on the condition of anonymity.

What is ailing the revamping process is the lack of political leadership which has impeded progress in the valley. The Gupkar Alliance leaders enjoy the confidence of the people but they have not vehemently espoused the cause of the Kashmiris in New Delhi.

According to Altaf Ahmad Budoo, a local businessman, the situation is grim. “In fact, we have been suffering under a lockdown for the last three years because of the restrictions not only related to Covid. Do you know the incidence of suicide has increased manifold? Visit the trauma centres and the picture would be clear,” says Altaf adding that tourism, the biggest source of revenue in the region is in a dilapidated state and all this farce of online education is exacerbating the condition. “Children are sitting idle because their parents don’t have the money to buy them phones,” adds Altaf.

To make matters worse, the political agenda belies the larger interest. BJP’s propaganda to start the process of delimitation is looked at with suspicion. “They are just trying to serve their own political interests,” is the general credence. As per the Saudi Gazette, the region is on a path of a new Sun Rise thanks to the various programmes introduced by the Centre, but that will not suffice.

A Kashmiri tells the author that so strong is the disbelief among Kashmiris that they even shy away from the National media. “Why should we trust the government? Are they bridging the gap? Do not be surprised if more and more people shift to militancy because of the paucity of opportunities,” says a businessman who refused to be quoted.

It is true that terror activities have reduced in the valley but to heave a sigh of relief would be half-witted. Our neighbours are sniffing from across the border and the recent drone attacks and the daily news of insurgency certainly do not augur well for the state.

The disquiet among the people is severe and no developmental schemes would yield results unless confidence-building measures are taken. Let us not forget that Pakistan is consistent with its endeavour to foment strife in Jammu & Kashmir. Such incitement cannot just be thwarted by counterattack but also with support from the people. If there is a trust deficit, India’s enemies will only get a shot in the arm.

The days of prevarication are over. It is time to talk straight and more importantly work straight. Do not beat about the bush, but show intent. Restore statehood, this is the unanimous demand. The rest of the world is watching.

“The abrogation has deepened the alienation of large sections of the population. It delegitimised the mainstream political space in J&K which has worrisome political consequences for the rest of the country,” writes Gupkar spokesperson MY Tarigami in The Indian Express. These words need to be taken seriously.

ALSO READ: Catch 22 For Babul: To Be Or Not To Be

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