Jammu and Kashmir: Scrapping Article 370 but treating Kashmiris shabbily will not solve the problem

Not taking people of the Valley into confidence, misleading them for days, then suddenly announcing the scrapping of Article 370 is like depriving Kashmiris of their identity in one single stroke

Curfew has been clamped in the Valley since Sunday night, hours before government announced bifurcation of J&K and scrapping Article 370 on Monday morning. (PTI file photo).
Curfew has been clamped in the Valley since Sunday night, hours before government announced bifurcation of JK and scrapping Article 370 on Monday morning. (PTI file photo).

Humra Quraishi

Does the government of the day realise that these recent drastic moves have not just compounded the crisis in the Valley but have left the Kashmiris feeling betrayed and cheated?

Not taking people of the Valley into confidence; instead misleading them for days at a stretch, then all too suddenly announcing the scrapping of Article 370; snapping all communication modes--it is like trampling dissent by the might of the boot. In one single stroke the Kashmiris were deprived of their identity, of their basic rights, of their very survival and existence!

The entire population in the Valley sits under siege. No, one cannot get to hear even a whisper from that besieged land, because military might prevails and holds sway as never before.

Have we bothered to ask the Kashmiris what they want? It is their land, their orchards, their meadows and garden stretches, their lakes and rivers…their lives and livelihoods and basic rights. Do we have the right to strike down all those rights of the Kashmiris, by the fake and false alibis fitted in well-crafted speeches of the political rulers in New Delhi.

I have been covering the Valley right from 1990, and even in the worst of situations the basic forms of communication were not sabotaged so very brutally and drastically. Of course, human rights violations and abuses have been on for years but this level of siege and clampdown was never witnessed before.

Fears and grave apprehensions have been doing the rounds for the last three years, ever since the BJP had first made official inroads in the Valley, after forming the government with the PDP. I recall the Kashmiris telling me that they do not trust the right-wing men as they were armed with a certain agenda. And whilst commenting on the then news of the government toying with the idea of setting up of Sainik colonies in the Valley, Kashmiris had minced no words, “In the garb of these colonies it will be the RSS cadres getting settled here … in the coming years, we Kashmiris would be thrown here and there by the sarkari orders, and those men will grab our lands and orchards …our valley. Our fate will be not too different from the Palestinians; after all, they were driven out of their prime lands by the Israelis and then made to live like refugees in the worst of situations. Our plight will be the same …these are the signs of these disasters coming up, as political treachery gets writ large…Our Valley is getting turned into a colony, ruled by the right wing men in New Delhi.”

The situation could aggravate, and with that the foreign players could make their presence felt. Agencies and arms lobbies are at work in the Valley for years working under garbs. But now the ‘invisible armies’ at work could bare their fangs and add another layer of complexities to the already mounting crisis in the region. Those buildups could impact the entire subcontinent. And international players are already too eager to set up base in the region, as the so called ‘mediators’ to the Kashmir crisis!

And the Kashmiri Muslims sitting under the ongoing siege have nowhere to go. Even if the siege gets lifted, they don’t have options to move out. Unfortunately we often don’t accept them in our midst. We treat them shabbily, as suspects. We don’t even spare the young Kashmiris coming here to study or work. I have been focusing on reports of Kashmiri students attacked in our towns and cities. Communally slanted comments are thrown at them and some are even called “terrorists”. Kashmiris do not get rooms at hotels and hostels because the Indian masses are being fed on the poisonous propaganda. They have to first report to the nearest police station before renting a room. Are Kashmiri students foreigners? Or have they come from an enemy country that they are made to report to police stations? Why do we look at Kashmiris with suspicion? Why are the cops trained and asked to keep a close watch on Kashmiris?

This is not a sudden development. Way back in 2002, Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) brought out a booklet with details of the ill- treatment meted out to the Kashmiris outside the Valley. This trend has worsened. Asa result, one news report after another come about Kashmiri students getting targeted and thrashed in our educational institutions. Two summers back, it was painful to see the plight of four young Kashmiri students studying in Rajasthan’s Mewar/Chittorgarh region. They were made to stand as though they’d committed a heinous crime. All they had done was to buy 300 gm mutton from the local market. This was enough to trigger “beef” rumours, leading to their arrest and public humiliation.

Kashmiri students recount how the local police keeps a watch on them to see where they eat, live or travel… It’s not that politicians have not been aware of the hardships that the Kashmiris face outside. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti — had all held meetings with their political counterparts. In the summer of 2006, it was reported in almost all dailies that Ghulam Nabi Azad had asked “the chief ministers of 11 states not to harass or take any action against traders and students of Jammu and Kashmir, without consulting the Director General of Police and the Additional Director General Police (CID), to ensure that innocent persons are not harassed on the pretext of questioning in event of any terrorist act in their respective states.”

In spite of Azad’s above-mentioned appeals, there were disturbing news reports from Gujarat. One such news report had this detail: “Ahmedabad: The crime branches of the Ahmedabad and Mumbai police are exchanging detainees, who are later used as targets for encounters... Following the encounter with four men, believed to be Kashmiri militants in Vatva in Ahmedabad, highly placed sources say they were detainees who had been with the city police for the last four months.”

And whilst interviewing the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on two separate occasions (once when he was the Union Home Minister and on another occasion when he was the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir), I had asked him to comment on the treatment meted out to Kashmiris once they ventured out of the Valley. He had given a detailed reply: “I'm aware of the kind of harassment and humiliation some Kashmiris are facing outside the state. I have openly talked at meetings about the dangers of looking at all Indian Muslims with suspicion. Don't link all Muslims with the likes of Dawood Ibrahims. I have cited instance after instance of the loyalty of the Indian Muslim and yet I fear some polarisation is indeed taking place.”

Also, there is no platform or forums through which harassed Kashmiris can even lodge a complaint. There are no helpline numbers. It is not just lack of transparency and accountability but an abundance of communal slants that compound the situation…Though a large number of Kashmiri students study in the various universities and colleges of this country but they keep to themselves, confined to their own little groups. In response to why they remain so aloof, they’d detailed - “ the locals are not very comfortable with us getting friendly with them …they know the police keeps a watch on us - where we eat or where we go or where we stay. We are aware of this constant police watch on us .”

Also, the treatment meted out to the Kashmiris by the scrapping of Article 370 followed by the sudden clampdown in the Valley, has definitely relayed a fresh set of worries and apprehensions for the Indian Muslims. After all, the Indian Muslim is also wary of his or her identity getting diluted if not totally wrecked by the right-wing agenda at work.

The Muslim community in the country sits shaken and shocked …fearing what new shockers await them.

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Published: 8 Aug 2019, 9:00 PM