Kashmir after Article 370: Cut off from the rest of India and the world, residents say 'it looks like 1947' all over again

Srinagar: Day after the Parliament decided to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories (Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh) after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre introduced a resolution in both Houses of Parliament, Kashmir remains in the grip of shock.

Authorities had put in place a strict crackdown, in advance, to thwart any kind of public protests after the legislation was revoked. On Sunday night, the authorities snapped internet, mobile connectivity and local cable television networks, putting Valley into a total information blackout. At midnight, the citizens witnessed massive troop mobilisation — thousands of paramilitary forces and police personnel across the Valley with barbed wires and barricades sealed the roads. Governor Satya Pal Malik-led state administration also imposed Section 144 of CrPc from 1200 Hrs on 5 August till "further orders."

"As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed. There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meeting or rallies during the period of operation of this order," an official release on 4 August evening read.

 Kashmir after Article 370: Cut off from the rest of India and the world, residents say it looks like 1947 all over again

For the residents in Kashmir, the only access to information on Monday was through official radio broadcast and outstation television channels. AFP

For the residents in Kashmir, the only access to information on Monday was through official radio broadcast and outstation television channels. Residents continue to remain locked inside their homes with no access to essential supplies like food and medicine. While the curfew-like strict restrictions continued on Tuesday, only the reporters of outstation television channels, and no local reporters, were visible on the streets along with security forces.

It took a while for the news of abrogation of Article 370 to sink in on Monday. Since the Valley is still reeling from communication blackout, large parts of Kashmir Valley are still unaware about the scrapping of the provision.

The Valley was rattled by the Central government's decision to scrap the special constitutional provision of Article 370 that governed the relationship between India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article empowered the state government to have its own constitution, have a separate flag and allowed the Parliament to frame laws for the state in only three matters: defence, external affairs and communication. In all other matters, the state government had exclusive autonomy to frame its own laws.

Abrogation of Article 370 has been on the agenda of Hindu right-wing since 1947. With BJP's ideological fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) vociferously campaigning against the provision since decades, the abrogation marks the fulfillment of one of the oldest demands of right-wing vis-à-vis Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, however, on Wednesday reviewed the law and order scenario in the state and was informed that the overall situation was satisfactory. In a meeting at the Raj Bhavan, the governor reviewed the law and order situation following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and proposed bifurcation of the state into two union territories, a Raj Bhawan spokesperson told Press Trust of India.

He said emergency services in hospitals were functioning, people were seen in markets buying daily provisions and electricity and water supply was also satisfactory. There is sufficient availability of essential supplies, the spokesperson said. The governor was informed that the overall situation in the state was satisfactory, with no untoward incident being reported from anywhere, he said.

In Kashmir, the abrogation is seen as violation of the agreement signed between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India in 1950. According to clause 3 of Article 370, the article shall "cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications" as notified by the President of India by a public notification.

"Provided that the recommendation of the Constitutional Assembly of the state referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such notification," the clause 3 reads. During the debate on Article 370 in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Congress MP Manish Tewari termed abrogation of Article 370 without the consent of Constituent Assembly or local elected government as "constitutional fraud".

In his seminal work on the Article 370, prolific constitutional expert A G Noorani in his book on the provision writes that "neither side can abrogate it (Article 370) unilaterally, except in accordance with the terms of that provision."

"The state is already under President's Rule and there's no elected government. The state is being ruled by President's nominee i.e. the governor. So, he cannot decide on behalf of the people of Kashmir. How can the Government of India annul an agreement unilaterally when there's no elected government in the state at first place? This is pure dictatorship," a Srinagar-based lawyer, wishing anonymity, said.

Since the decision was announced on Monday, residents of the Valley have been increasingly drawing comparison with the disempowerment and military occupation of Palestine by Israel. AFP

Since the decision was announced on Monday, residents of the Valley have been increasingly drawing comparison with the disempowerment and military occupation of Palestine by Israel. AFP

Since the decision was announced on Monday, residents of the Valley have been increasingly drawing comparison with the disempowerment and military occupation of Palestine by Israel. "It came as a shock. We knew something was on the cards since last few days but this was unimagined," said Mohammad Aamir a private banker in Srinagar.

"This (Article 370) was what was left of us in last 70 years, now it's gone. This looks like 1947. It looks like India has sold Kashmir… we are on way to become like Palestine," said Aamir.

According to Aamir, the abrogation of Article 370 will pave way for non-local settlers to buy immovable property in the region and become permanent residents of the Union territory. "India is a populous country and it won't matter if it settles 1 crore non-residents in the state. This will change the demographic character of the Muslim-majority Kashmir. Kashmir will lose its identity and Kashmiri Muslims will become minority in their own homeland."

Former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, along with Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone, remained detained even after the scrapping of the special status granted to the state. The local police has also detained Member of Parliament and patron of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference Farooq Abdullah.

While there are reports that police have cracked down on the activists of political parties across the Valley, there is little information on the status of former MLAs and Cabinet ministers of the Kashmir's mainstream political parties. The abrogation of Article 370 also, in many ways, marks an end to the mainstream pro-India politics in the Valley. With state's autonomy within the Indian Union forming the bedrock of pro-India politics in the conflict-torn Valley, the space for mainstream politics in the Valley has shrunk to a near zero.

"For decades, they killed their own people and jailed thousands in order to ensure India's writ in Kashmir. Now, they have been shown their worth. Kashmir's mainstream politicians have nowhere to go now because neither their own people nor New Delhi trusts them. What option do they have now than joining Kashmir's struggle for freedom," the Srinagar-based lawyer added.

But while the Valley is still recovering from the shock of what unfolded in Parliament over the last two days, Kashmir might be gearing up for another lethal season of bloodshed. "This shouldn't have happened. I feel we have been robbed of our identity. Nobody in Kashmir will accept it. Kashmir is yet to see its worse," a Jammu and Kashmir police official, guarding a government building in the heart of Srinagar city, said.

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Updated Date: Aug 08, 2019 11:33:15 IST