A National Alliance of People’s Movements delegation was
detained at Srinagar airport on the morning of 4th October, 2019 by the
District administration of Badgam and then sent back to Delhi. Individual
notices in the name of three activists issued by District Magistrate of Badgam
say that there was an apprehension that these activists would organise a protest
in Srinagar on the issue of abrogation of Article 370 which could pose
a threat to law and order and hence their entry into Jammu & Kashmir was
being restricted till further order.
A J&K officer was confused
about why should people be sent back from Srinagar airport. If the government
doesn’t want them to enter J&K why doesn’t it stop them when they are
boarding their flights to Srinagar? Before the momentous decision was taken on
5th August, when tourists were being sent back, in the end when one of them
remained, a 225 seater plane was sent by the Indian Air Force with one
passenger! Isn’t it squandering tax-payer’s money?
delegation was planning to visit J&K for two days and wasn’t
planning to organise any protests or hold any meetings. It was merely planning
to meet some common people to find out what hardships they were subjected to
because of the various restrictions imposed on the people of J&K. While the
Union government is claiming and the Prime Minister has declared in several
languages from Houston that ‘everything is all right,’ that is clearly not the
case otherwise why should the government have to maintain the clampdown even
two months after the decision taken to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A as well as
division of state of J&K into two parts, downgrading both of them to union
territories. There would not have been a need to prevent groups like NAPM from
All means of
communication, except for land line phones, are inoperational. Newspapers,
except for one ‘Brighter Kashmir, which was spotted at the airport, are not
being printed. The government is desperately trying to open the schools in
Kashmir Division but parents find it difficult to send children because of
uncertainty related to transportation.
It is also the case
that some schools are being used as camps for para-military forces. Most
markets are still closed. Some shops open but only during morning 6 am to 9 am
hours. Petrol pumps also open for a few hours every day. The fruit growers are
finding it difficult to sell their produce to their customary buyers. Even
though the government has agreed to buy their produce but the entire trade and
market has been disrupted. While the government claims that there is no curfew
imposed but the fact is Section 144 of CrPC has been applied and people cannot move
about freely. Even the Kashmiri officers of J&K government are
subject to frisking and security checks by central security forces.
Most social and
political activists, who could mobilise people against the central government’s
twin decisions, have been either sent to jails in different parts of the
country or kept under arrest in their houses or some common locations in
Srinagar converted to sub-jail. Most of these detentions are illegal, without
any written orders of any authority.
In response to a
Right to Information query the Home Ministry has pretended ignorance about any
orders to block telecommunications and internet or evacuation of tourists and
detention of political leaders and social activists. When the curfew like
situation ends there is also a need for enquiry into possible casualities
during this clampdown. Right now all news of protests and the reaction of
security forces is totally blocked.
There is talk of
resuming the democratic process in the state of J&K by holding the Block
Panchayat elections. However, Panchayat is a state subject under 7th Schedule
of Indian Constitution.
It is now going to
be 14 months since the state is without an elected government. It is the duty
of State government of J&K to hold the Panchayat elections. The central
government should facilitate in holding the state assembly elections at the
earliest and then also get the decisions taken by it approved by the state
assembly, if it believes what it has done is in the interest of the people of
J&K. Only state assembly’s endorsement of central government’s decision can
give it some legitimacy otherwise the manner in which it has been done is
If a similar decision,
as has been taken by the government with respect to J&K, was taken in the
context of any other state without consulting its people would the people have
The central government has to trust the people of J&K. All communications restrictions have to be lifted. Home Minister is claiming that government’s decision will bring development to the state. The reality is even the companies which were there are now packing up to leave as they find the atmosphere not conducive to business. Which company would like to invest is a state in which normalcy doesn’t prevail?
The Indian Railways
has claimed that it has suffered a loss of Rs. 2 crores because of the ongoing
Normalcy is not
possible with the massive presence of army and para-military, which should be
removed from internal areas of J&K and entrusted with the task of defending
borders and checking infiltration of men and material from across the border.
Internal law and order should be handled by the state government with the help
of J&K police.
The future of the
state has to be determined by the state government as a representative of the
sentiment of people of J&K. The earlier the government of India understands
this the faster the situation will return to normalcy.
It is interesting to
note that while the government of India is negotiating with National Socialist
Council of Nagaland (Issac Muivah) and with Bodos for a concept of shared
sovereignty and separate statehood, respectively, it doesn’t think Kashmiris
worth having a dialogue with. Just as NSCN (IM) represents popular sentiment of
people of Nagaland, Hurriyat Conference is a representative of people of
an elected government in J&K can bring normalcy.
government has done a potential damage by discrediting the state level
political parties and their leaders. Are corruption and dynastic rule only a
phenomena in J&K? How does it plan to fill this vacuum, unless it has
sinister plans to have only a one-party rule in the country like
in China? Otherwise it is not clear how the government intends to restore
democracy in the state without taking people of J&K into confidence? How
long does the central government intend to rule J&K through the Governor
and the armed forces? It is impossible to change people’s opinion in
government’s favour by using force, the reverse is likely to happen.
By Dr. Sandeep Pandey
The writer is Magsaysay award winner Social and political activist