Kashmir, where rumours come alive, is again agog in anticipation of changes
Rumours are taken more seriously in the Kashmir Valley than what the media dish out as news. And bazaars are again buzzing with speculation about what the PMO has up its sleeves
Had you been alive, I wonder what you would have made of the rumours swirling through the Valley. I wish you were around to help make sense of what we hear. I remember you telling me that in Kashmir, rumours were often more reliable than verified news.
It almost feels like the days before August 5, 2019 when the Government feigned a terrorist threat to send pilgrims back home and shut down the valley after reinforcing security. On August 5, rumours that the Government was planning to abrogate Article 370 turned out to be true. It was finally news.
The last fortnight has also witnessed rumours swirling through the valley of more drastic changes in the offing. The visible rise in the deployment of paramilitary forces has added fuel to the rumours. Unlike in 2019, however, people seem to be calm and stoical. There is no panic buying in the markets and the serpentine queues before petroleum outlets are missing. But the bazaar gossip is that the Sarkar has something up its sleeves.
Everything, from splitting the region further to according statehood to Jammu, is being talked about. We also hear that some parts of south Kashmir may become part of Jammu to end the so-called political domination of Kashmir over Jammu.
Amid all these rumours, the leaders of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD)-- a conglomeration of six political parties-- met again. I missed you in the photographs that appeared in national newspapers. Significantly, the coverage in the local newspapers of the PAGD meeting was scant. One local newspaper published a single column news item on the front page while another chose to black it out. I am sure you know why.
After the meeting, Dr Farooq Abdullah, chairperson of PAGD said they had not shut the doors for dialogue with the Centre. It was the first time since August 5, 2019 that such sentiment has been voiced by political leaders in the Valley. Does this mean that it has finally dawned on the BJP-led government at the Centre that it is impossible to resume full-fledged political activities in Kashmir without the principal political parties of the Valley?
Results of last year's District Development Council elections (DDC) in which both BJP and the newly minted Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP), billed as BJP's B-team, fared poorly in the Valley might have prompted New Delhi to give dialogue a chance. Rumours speak of an impending all party meeting to which political parties of J & K would also be invited.
The Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in an interview to a TV channel said that rumours were being circulated by anti-national elements. Paramilitary personnel who had been sent outside the Union Territory for election duty were now returning to their posts, he explained. But
But the common Kashmiri has learnt to take the words of authorities with a pinch of salt. Satyapal Malik, the then Governor of undivided J & K had similarly scoffed at the rumours and had accused political leaders and vested interests for fanning panic and fear ahead of August 5, 2019. "If someone sneezes at Lal Chowk, it becomes known as a blast at the Raj Bhavan", he had said.
Rumours were so strong then that even Abdullahs had rushed to New Delhi and called on Prime Minister Modi to convey their apprehensions vis-a-vis the special status of J & K. But the Prime Minister, who too must have been ignorant of the momentous decision to be announced by Home Minister Amit Shah on August 5, had assured the Abdullahs with a straight face that nothing was planned.
We miss you. But I will keep up the correspondence and let you know if the rumours again come true.
(The writer lost his father, a prominent political activist in the Valley a fortnight ago)