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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Remembering August 5, 2019 — the day when Jammu and Kashmir changed forever

Since the day the BJP government at the Centre revoked Jammu & Kashmir’s special status by abrogating Article 370 and 35-A in August 2019, a formidable section of the international media in tune with “intellectuals” and academia has been struggling to establish their narrative that New Delhi has launched a “militaristic aggression in the disputed State”.

Having lost the initiative, there have been feverish attempts by the regressive class through a well-coordinated ecosystem to selectively counter and confront Bharat wherever this country tried to underscore the legal and constitutional sanction to neutralize the 30-year-long armed insurgency. When a Bharatiya journalist complained at an ORF conference in New Delhi towards the end of 2019 that the international media was ‘brazenly’ taking Pakistan’s side to undercut Bharat, she was confronted by a senior American journalist.

“We do it for a purpose. We are concerned about India as it enjoys the distinction of being the world’s largest democracy. We want it to flourish as a true democracy. We don’t give a damn to Pakistan and other countries who do worse to scuttle the people’s rights and liberties”, the American journalist said unapologetically. Many in the gathering though were not convinced.

It has been widely pointed out how the international media, as well as a section of the Bharatiya national media, has been bitterly polarised over political and ideological spectrums, particularly so in the last three years. Journalists, academics and intellectuals of high repute have reduced themselves to toolkits of certain agencies and their opinions have been ridiculously subjective. Most of their readers and followers though dismiss it all as ‘single story syndrome’.

In Kashmir, in 2019 and for some time thereafter, it was noticed that a proactive ecosystem was selectively in search of the persons and places which would say or demonstrate something against New Delhi’s interventions of 5 August 2019. The characters of this ecosystem, who were resourceful and powerful enough to visit the valley and meet their contacts despite restrictions on communications and movement, left no stone unturned to convince the world that everybody in Kashmir was up in arms against Bharat and there would be a massive ‘rebellion’ and bloodshed. They selectively visited the most radicalised areas in Shopian and Srinagar’s Anchar neighborhood, interviewed the people of a particular ideology and broadcast one-sided stories, documentaries and podcasts which only misled the world about the ground realities in Kashmir. “The other version” was completely missing, perhaps suppressed in sync with an ideology-driven ecosystem.

Without going deep into the legality and constitutionality of the abrogation of Article 370, it was clear enough that Kashmir’s own mainstream politicians were offering provocation after provocation to New Delhi and egregiously daring the Centre to tamper with the provision. One particular MLA arranged for a “beef kebab party” at the lawns of the legislators hostel in Srinagar. One particular Minister, himself a part of the coalition with the BJP, supervised the pulling down of the Bharatiya national flag and demolition of an Army bunker. Much of it happened after the BJP brought down Mehbooba Mufti’s coalition in June 2018 but no less when the PDP-BJP government was in place for over three years after March 2015.

Lawyers deeply linked to Hurriyat, and according to IB reports also to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, were recommended for the vacancies of judges in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Vice Chancellors of Universities, other senior faculty and administrative positions, even chairpersons and members of the constitutional and statutory bodies, were picked up on the references and recommendations of a staunch pro-Pakistan organization. For some observers, the situation was worse than the beginning of the militancy in 1990 when New Delhi was simply groping in the dark about everything.

As a State within State ruled the roost for over three years, an LeT terrorist escaped from Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital in February 2018. A prominent journalist was gunned down outside his office in Srinagar’s Press Enclave in June 2018. Days later, the BJP pulled the rug and terminated it’s coalition with the PDP. The ultimate provocation came in February 2019 when 40 CRPF men were killed in an unprecedented car bomb blast near Awantipora on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. It occurs weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

So, when the BJP returned to power for its second term with a thumping majority, it lost no time to carry out the political surgical strike that was on its agenda since its birth but had never been attempted. Even when the then Chief Minister of Gujarat and Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed his first campaign meeting before the Lok Sabha elections in December 2013 in Jammu, he only sought a “debate on merits and demerits of Article 370”.

For all the five years of its ruling the country, the BJP faced an embarrassing situation as the militants carried out their activities without inhibition and their supporters, cheerleaders and separatists occupied key positions in the State Government and other institutions. The PDP-BJP coalition was seen as an unnatural alliance between the pro-Pakistan militant groups and the right wing in Bharat. The situation was unmistakably advantageous to Pakistan as the valley was left with nobody to contest Pakistan, militants and separatists politically. The unprecedented competitive separatism, promoted by the BJP’s valley partners, saw ‘jingoists’ like Farooq Abdullah fading into oblivion and radicals like Syed Ali Shah Geelani calling the shots.

So, immediately after the Awantipora terror strike, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government opted for a root and branch option. It imposed a ban on JKLF, Jamaat-e-Islami and other separatist groups, revived Rubaiya Sayeed kidnapping and IAF killings cases, got most of the militant-turned-political leaders, including Yasin Malik arrested or detained at home, and withdrew the decades old VVIP status and Police protection from all the separatist leaders. It lost little time to go for the master stroke even as most of the security and intelligence agencies, including the then Chief Secretary, warned that the abrogation of Article 370 would trigger uncontrollable protests and bloodshed in the valley.

Contrary to all such warnings and apprehension, there was no hostile reaction in Kashmir which had a long history of resistance since 1931. No amount of force or repression or numbers of security forces had been able to silence the Kashmiris on gun point ever since 1931. But the separatist-terrorist ecosystem projected to the world that it was “lull before the storm” and soon there would be massive protests, killings and reactive terrorism.

Over the last three years, Pakistan and its handlers of militancy have been able to just maintain the level of 150-200 insurgents to keep the pot boiling but there have been no protests across Kashmir. Contrary to the claims by Pakistan, the separatists in the valley and more significantly the outbursts of their cheerleaders in the mainstream politics, all the years old demonstrations, people’s clashes with the Police and security forces, coupled with the trademark stone pelting, have vanished in the last three years. All educational institutions, banks, businesses and government offices are functioning smoothly and there have been no curfews, shutdowns, telephone or internet suspensions after March 2020. Even when Geelani died in September 2021, normalcy returned within a few days and nobody died in clashes with security forces.

While the urban local body, Panchayat and District Development Council elections have been successfully held with high voter turnout, preparations are now underway for the UT’s first Assembly elections.

Interestingly, a gathering of 12,000 Kashmiri students and sportspersons is cheering at the inauguration of the renovated Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar where the first day-and-night football match is being played under floodlights exactly on the third anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 today on the 5th of August 2022.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style guide)

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