The volatile Valley in south Kashmir, after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, has seen complete peace barring a few incidents of minor stone-pelting. Many people in Shopian town are happy that there was no knee-jerk reaction against the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
"It is good that we have not lost any civilian lives so far. It is a long battle now. I am happy there was no knee-jerk reaction from Kashmiris," Salim*, a lawyer in Shopian said.
He said that such decisions (abrogation of special status) have long-term consequences and that if people are quiet this time and are not protesting against it, it in no way means that the common people (Kashmir) are happy with the decision.
"The reaction to Sheikh Abdullah-Indira Gandhi's Accord of 1975 came in 1988 in the form of an armed struggle. These types of decisions have long-term consequences. We have to wait and watch how things unfold now in Kashmir," the lawyer said.
The shock factor
The sudden announcement of the abrogation of the special status of the state by Home Minister Amit Shah has come as a shock and source of despair to many in and outside Kashmir. From the common masses to the high official in government machinery, everyone seems to have been surprised by the sudden announcement.
"A high-ranking government official wept inside his office chambers when the announcement was made. He was shell shocked. He is basically from Jammu and that is why is more afraid," a low ranking official said.
An English lecturer popped blood pressure pills when the announcement was made. "It was shocking for all of us. Even teachers were affected by it. If there is a Hindu chief minister in Jammu and Kashmir now it will hardly matter. A Hindu chief minister for a Muslim-majority Union Territory is only an offshoot of what they (political parties) have done. Even if Jammu is the new capital, no one will be shocked or surprised here anymore. The shock factor is gone," he said.
However, he added that people are still in a state of mourning. It was quite visible that the anti-India sentiment has reached every nook and cranny of south Kashmir.
Possible demographic change
Fears about a possible demographic change loom large with people in Shopian believing that their district will be the last to be affected by the demographic change in the new Union Territory, if any. "Our land (Shopian) will be the last taken by them because of the militancy factor. I don’t believe the companies will come here initially. Companies cannot run in isolation," Zakir*, a local who works in New Delhi, said.
He said that the apprehensions about a demographic change persist, but people there cannot predict the future and have to wait what unfolds next. He said Jammu will be most affected and its identity is under threat.
‘Drama’ of mainstream parties
If there is anger among people, it is against the mainstream politicians they now perceive as their foes, rather than friends. "New Delhi is not an enemy. Delhi is open and clear about its actions and words. It is our own who have betrayed the people of Kashmir time and again. It is them (National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party) who have brought his situation upon the locals here," Altaf*, an angry youth said.
People in south Kashmir also feel ashamed that their representatives could not defend their special status in front of Shah.
"MP Hasnain Masoodi couldn't defend it in the Lok Sabha. He was laughing when Shah asked him to defend the landmark judgment passed about Article 370. He (Masoodi) simply kept laughing at him and did not present any valid argument to defend the special status. Congressman Manish Tewari defended it better than our 'own' people in the Parliament," Salim said, adding that the least these politicians could have done was to resign from the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
"There is news about slapping the Public Safety Act (PSA) on mainstream politicians. It is drama by these politicians to gain sympathy. They will come out and say that they were put behind bars under the PSA. They will now come back and say vote for us we will give you back statehood. Did they get us autonomy or self-rule in the past 70 years? They will now milk new perks, money and other lavish things for next 70 years by telling people they will give them statehood," the lawyer said.
He said that local politicians and political parties here have been rendered irrelevant now; the main organ is the Jammu and Kashmir Police department and that is what matters for the Centre.
"It was better not to keep a legislative Assembly here either. We don't need these greedy mainstream politicians here. It is good that this has happened to them. New Delhi is not with the mainstream here — politicians the National Capital considered its own. How can they be with the people here?" Iqbal*, a businessman asked.
He said that whatever weapon (abrogation of special status) New Delhi had in its arsenal, has been used on Kashmiris. "They have nothing left to scare us now. This was the last nail in the coffin," he said.
On 28 July, Muhammad Lateef Shah, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) worker, was shot at and injured by unidentified gunmen outside his residence in Mitrogam area of Pulwama district.
Shah, who is still recovering at his residence, said that the Centre should have consulted the people of Jammu and Kashmir first before abrogating the Article, and that Kashmiris will never accept this unilateral decision by the Centre. "Kashmiris will never accept this decision. People will take to the streets. It is a problem faced by the entire state and not any particular party. We have to be united this time. Even the Hurriyat has to come forward," Shah said.
In comes Pakistan
Many locals in Shopian town also say that it is to be seen how the neighbouring country (Pakistan) will react to all these developments. They also believe that the middle ground is gone and the fight between the Kashmiris and New Delhi is direct now. "How Pakistan will play out is important. Also, things will change if it decides to send weapons to Kashmir like in the 1990s. Afghanistan peace talks have become a fundamental factor for the Kashmir situation now," Ejaz*, a local from Shopian said.
He said that many here believe that the United Jihad Council Chairman Syed Sallahuddin (a Kashmiri militant based in Pakistan) might get on the radio and give a shutdown call, and that people will definitely comply with that direction. "Kashmiris have been rendered leaderless. Anything is possible now. It is only because the government has been so brazen with shutting and cornering Kashmiris from all sides that anyone can emerge as a leader now," he said.
There have been minor stone-pelting incidents in the Shopian district that have taken place in the past 10 days of government lockdown. More importantly, the Eid congregational prayers have been allowed at the Jamia Masjid in Shopian, while other main mosques of the Valley have been kept locked. "They allowed Eid prayers in Jamia Mosque. But it was a small gathering because all the entry and exit points of the Shopian town were sealed by the forces. There were no processions or stone-pelting incidents here after Eid prayers," Rahim*, a local said.
He said that roughly 500 people have been arrested from Shopian alone. "There is no possibility of any protests because of the arrests and the heavy presence of the forces on ground," he said.
On 7 August, two days after the special status was abrogated, news channels showed footage of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval talking and eating 'biryani' with locals in Shopian.
However, locals who were part of this programme, had a different story to share. Muhammad Isaq, a fruit vendor, said, "I was coming back from hospital, having undergone surgery on my right leg. The station house officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Police stopped me and told me to accompany him to the DC office. Upon reaching the DC office, I saw a group of locals there. We were kept there for a night. On the next day, we were bundled into vehicles and taken to this chowk amid a heavy presence of the forces."
"Rice was ready there to be served in front of cameras. It was not biryani, but simple rice mixed with chicken. We didn't know who Doval was. I had never seen him. It was only after I reached home and told them what happened did I learn of the mess into which I had got myself. I have come out of my home after three days, fearful for my life because no one knows what actually happened that day," he continued.
"There was also this man Manzoor Ahmamd Magray of the forest department in the video clip. He was the first man to meet Doval. His home is near this chowk. It is impossible that he was hungry and came to have lunch with the NSA. Magray has good connections with the police and has also helped free many stone-pelters. There is something fishy about the NSA clip," Saleem alleged.
Putting matters into perspective, he noted that in comparison to 'what they have done to us' (abrogation of special status), this Doval incident is a small non-issue. "We have seen such drama many times," he said.
*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals
Updated Date: Aug 19, 2019 13:39:37 IST