J&K government goes on advertisement blitz to urge restoration of ‘normal’ in Valley

The govt ad blitz in local newspapers about the ‘benefits’ of revocation of Article 370 comes at a time when local press has adopted self-censorship to avoid any trouble from the government agencies<b></b>

India keeps Kashmir on lockdown for Eid (File Photo)
India keeps Kashmir on lockdown for Eid (File Photo)

Majid Maqbool

Amid the ongoing communications blockade and more than two-months-long ongoing shutdown observed by people in protest against the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state, the government of Jammu and Kashmir is giving out full page advertisements on the front pages of all prominent Kashmir dailies including Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir, Kashmir Images, Kashmir Monitor among other English and Urdu dailies — except for daily Kashmir Reader for which all government advertisements continue to be banned — urging people to resume ‘normal’ life.

The latest such advertisement splashed on the front pages on Friday reads: “Think!!! About who benefits from closed shops and no public transport”.

“This is our home. It is for us to think of its well being and prosperity. WHY FEAR,” it goes on to say.

Curiously, even as the government has been claiming that all is well in the Valley, even for inbound tourists, the advertisement suggests that the ongoing shutdown is enforced due to “militant threats”. “Are we going to succumb to militants?” it asks, going on to claim that “We are at the crossroads today”.

“Do we permit the age-old tactic of threats and coercion to influence us? Will threat and misinformation prevail or will we take informed decisions on what is best for us?” the advertisement asks in a series of questions to the readers. “Will we let a few posters and threats push us into not resuming our businesses… Into not earning our legitimate livelihood… Into not securing a rightful education and secure future for our children… Into not letting development bloom for our Kashmir?”

The advertisement also takes potshots at the incarcerated Hurriyat leadership, criticizing them for “instigating people”. “While separatists sent their children to exotic lands to study, work and earn, they instigated the common people to push their children into violence, stone pelting and hartals,” the advertisement claims, adding that they “used threats of terrorists, coercion and misinformation to beguile the people. Today, the militants are using the same tactic of threats and coercion. Are we going to tolerate this?”

The new front-page advertisement sent by the state government to all prominent English and Urdu language dailies comes close on the heels of another government ad which has been regularly splashed on the front pages of all prominent dailies over the past one month. Titled “A single constitution for the entire country. How will Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh benefit?”, the ad argues in favour of the revocation of Article 370 and lists out its “benefits” for the people of the state.

Front page government ad published in prominent English and Urdu dailies in Kashmir
Front page government ad published in prominent English and Urdu dailies in Kashmir

The full page advertisement, which was regularly published on the front pages of all prominent local dailies over the past several weeks, is divided into several subheads like “Article 370 and 35A responsible for backwardness of J&K”. The ad lists out how the region will benefit from the revocation of special status.

“For many years in the past, the state of J&K has been the victim of anti-national propaganda and terrorist actions against innocent citizens. The Article 370 and 35A became a handy tools for mischievous elements to fan separatism and promote terror. These two articles kept the state isolated and away from development processes in the country for a long time,” the advertisement claimed, further adding that the special status benefited only a select few “e.g., Hurriyat leaders and people working for them.”

“Despite massive fund allotment there was only limited improvement in the conditions of poor and disadvantaged. Similarly, even though the parliament passed a number of progressive laws for the benefits and welfare of people, yet most of them could not be extended to J&K, thereby denying the people of J&K the benefits, which are available to all other citizens in India,” the government ad further argued in favour of the revocation of special status.

The state government pays between 60,000 to more than one lakh per day to the prominent Kashmir based English and Urdu language newspapers for publishing these full-page ads on their front pages, according to informed sources.

Interestingly, the government advertisement blitz in the local newspapers about the benefits of revocation of Article 370 comes at a time when the local press has been “tamed” and adopted self-censorship to avoid any trouble from the government agencies. All prominent local newspapers, unlike in the past, have avoided independent coverage of the aftermath of the revocation of special status, including months-long shutdown and communications blockade enforced by the state since August 5.

Almost all the prominent local dailies have avoided publishing editorials and opinion pieces on the revocation of Article 370 and the aftermath of lockdown and communications shutdown which has entered the third month now. Instead, there’re lead columns and opinion pieces discussing – the climate crisis, Shakespearian tragedies, Botox therapy, for example – everything under the sun except touching the current situation in the valley and the ramifications of revocation of Article 370 and hardships faced by the people due to the continued communications shutdown which has affected seven million people of the valley.

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