Concerned citizens: Has there been unrest in Kashmir after the abrogation of special status of J&K?
Govt: No. Ummm… well, yes. But…
A video of protests by thousands of Kashmiris against the abrogation of Article 370 went viral on Friday August 9. In the video, shot by BBC Urdu, thousands of Kashmiri men and boys are seen raising slogans for ‘Azadi’. In one part, a crowd is seen running for the cover as gunshots are heard and smoke is seen some distance away, though no security personnel are in the frame.
After first refuting the reports of such massive protests, the government on Tuesday said that there was indeed a protest in Srinagar but held “miscreants” as responsible for the same.
“Stories in media on a said incident in Soura region of Srinagar. On August 9, miscreants mingled with people returning home after prayers at a local mosque. They resorted to unprovoked stone pelting against law enforcement forces to cause widespread unrest,” the Union Home Ministry spokesperson said in a tweet.
“The law enforcement authorities showed restraint and tried to maintain law and order situation. It is reiterated that no bullets have been fired in Jammu and Kashmir since the development related to Article370,” it added.
International media organisations including Reuters, BBC and Al-Jazeera have reported of massive protests and incidents of unrest in the Valley, but the government had earlier called them “fabricated” and “incorrect”. It said that “not more than 20” protesters gathered at any place.
However, the BBC in a statement on Monday firmly said that it stood by its reports from Jammu and Kashmir.
There have been restrictions on assembly and movement of people in the Valley amid a complete communication shut down in Kashmir with no phones or internet working since August 5. Most of the information is being shared only through highly placed state government officials. The videos, photos and text on these handles are trying to portray a picture of “normalcy” in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to reports, the landline phones too have been snapped since Monday night. The reporters were mostly filing their reports through these phones.
Amid an information shut down, the truth is trickling down in bits and pieces.
That the Narendra Modi government is very cautious of what goes out in the media and out to the international community is evident from the fact that the official Twitter handle of the Indian mission at the United Nations in Geneva tweeted a list of handles that should be followed for “authentic information” from Kashmir.
News of protests and violence emanating from Kashmir can be embarrassing for the Modi government as it seeks to project that the common Kashmiris are happy about its decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35-A that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Even as senior police officials continue to emphasize that “bullets” have not been fired on the protestors, independent media organisation such as The Wire However, independent news outlets such as The Wire have carried reports of Kashmiri youth getting injured and blinded in pellet firing by the security forces.
In a video shared by The Wire on its website, some of the injured men have claimed that the security forces fired on them without any provocation from their side. It reported at least 21 youth injured in pellet firing admitted to Sher-e-Kashmir hospital in Srinagar.
The Editors Guild and other journalist bodies have asked the government to lift the restrictions and let media cover the situation on the ground as is their right.