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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 42 New Delhi October 5, 2019

Dear Modiji, if Everything is Normal in Kashmir, why are Kashmiris Caged?

Saturday 5 October 2019

by Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Ahmad Lone

Dear Modiji,

As you know that on August 5, 2019, your government unilaterally abrogated the Articles 370 and 35A, which guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Union of India. In this regard, you and your govern-ment claimed that it would pave the way for the development of Jammu and Kashmir. It would eradicate poverty and create new job opportunities for the young generation of Kashmiris. Even though the State of Jammu and Kashmir was doing good enough on the Human Development Index (HDI) and Grass Domestic Product (GDP) indicators against most of the States of India, if the development of the State was the purpose in mind, then we doubt it because this decision was taken in the middle of the tourist season and also when the Amarnath Yatra was going on. This decision could have been delayed till winter when normally schools would be on winter break and also the tourist influx would be low.

In addition, your government claimed that this decision would fully integrate the State with the Union of India and also it would bring down terrorism. Only an illogical person can think of eradicating terrorism and integration of a certain area by forced decisions. There is a feeling among most of the Kashmiris that it would alienate them more and also it will enhance radicalisation. We were there in Kashmir during the first 35 days of curfew. Everyone we spoke to was saying the same thing: that they are humiliated and deceived by the Government of India. They fear that there might be a rise in violence and it would take more innocent lives of Kashmiris. Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Imran Khan, whose country you blame for terrorism in India, has said that it would trigger more and more Pulwama-like attacks.

Moreover, the Indian media and your government are propagating that the Kashmiris are happy with the decision of abrogating Article 370 and they are celebrating. Your misleading media is showing pictures of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval roaming freely on the deserted streets of Kashmir, talking to a few Kashmiris and having biryani. However, this media will not show that Ali Mohammad of Downtown, Srinagar or Ansar Wani of Soura, Srinagar were killed by security forces during this whole blackout. Then your Home Minister Amit Shah says [ek bhi goli nahi chali, ek bhi mrityu nahi huyi] no bullet was fired and no one was killed. This is of grave concern that the Home Minister of India is lying.

Let’s assume that Kashmiris are happy, they are celebrating this decision of abrogation of Article 370 and everything is normal as you and your media is claiming. Questions arise under these circumstances: if everything is normal in Kashmir, why are Kashmiris caged? If Kashmiris are happy with the unilateral abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, why don’t you let them celebrate? If all is normal in Kashmir, why do you cut off Kashmir from the rest of the world? If everything is normal, why have mobile phones and Internet connectivity been suspended in Kashmir for nearly two months? Mr Modi, is there any country that has kept an entire population under lockdown and communication blackout for nearly two months? If all is well, why have children not been to schools in Kashmir? Why are mainstream leaders in jail? Most importantly, does India need almost 800,000 soldiers to fight around two hundred militants in Kashmir?

In the end, we would like to tell you, dear Modiji, that there are other ways of doing politics and certainly there is a whole life in front of us for this. This is not the way and this is not the time of doing politics by caging eight million Kashmiri people. Enough is enough. Now let humanity prevail and lift the curfew. Let the Kashmiris speak. Let the mother speak to her son whom she has not talked to for a while now. You promised better days for Kashmiris. It is has been almost two months now, but those better days are nowhere to be seen. You speak of hugging and winning the hearts of Kashmiris. It would be a great hug if you let them speak and let the people of Kashmir decide their political future on their own.

Thank You!

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Ahmad Lone

Sabzar Ahmad Bhat is a graduate student working on his Ph.D at the Central University of Gujarat. His topic of dissertation is “Interrogating Human Rights in Kashmir Valley: A Study of State and Non-State Actors”. Suhail Ahmad Lone is a social activist, working on the situation of Human Rights in Kashmir.

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