100 Days Of Strike In Kashmir: Assessing Gains, Losses – OpEd
By Farooq Wani
November 12, marks the completion of 100 days of lockdown and shutdown in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state on August 5. The ‘lockdown’ imposed as a precautionary measure did help in controlling violence levels but it simultaneously caused numerous sufferings to the populace.
Though based on different hearsays and spread by people having nothing to do with politics of state, shutdown still continues.Kashmir valley saw rumor mongering at its highest level and the uncertainty it created encouraged lawlessness in Kashmir, however this prolonged shutdown was first ever in three decades when there was minimum human loss, because by a series of preventive detentions, the Government was able to prevent rumor mongers and those activists and politicians who are always trying to disturb peace in Kashmir for personal gains from being able to do so.
The foresight and proactive action displayed by the government is commendable as it saved many lives and prevented damage to public and private property.Former Indian spymaster AS Dulat who has had a very good knowledge about Kashmir and its people has rightly pointed out that Kashmiris believe in gossip and rely on outside sources to get their problems solved without involving themselves.
Thus, while many have criticized the government curb on social media, but with a history of the internet in Kashmir being misused to spread fake news for instigating gullible youth, the government has been able to justify this decision as being one taken in “public interests.”
And the fact that the present lockdown has seen the lowest violence levels in Kashmir, supports the government’s move of placing temporary curbs on internet.The prudent, sagacious and erudite have predicted that the anti-Article 370 abrogation lobby would be unable to indefinitely continue with shutdowns as they impose a very mental and financial strain on the ordinary people.
Kashmir has already lost thousands of crores due to the lockdown and both the horticulture and tourist industry which provides direct or indirect employment to nearly 3 million Kashmiris is in shambles. So, while killing shopkeepers for opening their shops and targeting apple growers and migrants may scare both locals and tourists, but the shutdown being imposed by the anti-Article 370 abrogation lobby will soon lose momentum as it’s unsustainable.
Education which plays a vital role in developing of society has been the worst hit by the shutdown. And those belonging to economically weaker section of society are already realising that it’s only their children who are suffering for two reasons. One, unlike people from affluent classes and those supporting shutdown in the Valley who have already sent their wards outside the Valley for studies, the majority of the people can’t afford the huge expenses on this account. Two, it’s only the children of the not-so-rich who end up getting instigated into pelting stones and get killed or injured when the police resorts to firing in order to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.
Transport is another sector which has been badly affected due to this strike and has incurred heavy losses. With vehicles off the road, drivers were rendered unemployed and those who had taken bank loans had no means to repay installments. Such was their desperation that some truck drivers took the risk of plying vehicles but while one was killed by stones pelted by mobs, two others were shot dead by militants and many trucks were torched.
Similarly, those who are working on a day to day to eke out a livelihood and can hardly manage two square meals to feed their families have faced lot of hardships during this strike and are enduring tremendous mental trauma.
With the killing of truck drivers, the movement of goods from outside and into the state has been disturbed and untimely snowfall has added to the misery as lot of fruit is yet to be dispatched outside the state. Due to threats to truck drivers, there is every apprehension of huge losses to fruit growers because of non-availability of requisite cold storage facility within the Valley. Non local truck drivers are now not willing to ply trucks to Kashmir and this has given a blow to Kashmir economy.
The killing of innocent people by militants may be to create fear psychosis among the people and dissuade them from venturing out carry out their day to day activities is another tragedy for the people of Kashmir. Shopkeepers in Srinagar and Pulwama who defied threats and tried to carry on their business were killed in broad day light in what are glaring examples.
The motive behind the two grenade attacks in the busiest market of Srinagar city (Hari Singh High Street) which always witness huge rush of shoppers that left one non local toy seller and local passerby dead and dozens injured and was evidently to restrict the movement of common people, but such tactics have not yielded any positive response from the public.
The killing of five nonlocal laborers has triggered a mass exodus of migrants from the Valley because of fear to their lives and this will have an adverse effect on various critical activities in the Valley. The Central Government has taken steps to arrest this trend by taking extra security measures, but it is impossible to cover every inch of the vast expanse. Killing of migrants in the Valley can instigate violence against Kashmiris living and working outside the state and thus, it’s only the poor Kashmiri who will be the end loser.
Recently, Lt Governor Girish Chandra Murmu stated that assembly elections in J&K will held soon and told the JK police to be fully prepared for ensuring smooth conduct of elections. On the face of it, holding elections soon is a good thing as elected representatives of the people can address the problems being faced by the common man.
Yet, holding elections in J&K at this juncture would not be appropriate as the people are still quite confused about what abrogation of Article 370 really means for them. Moreover, in the absence of any political party with mass appeal and the ability to effectively handle the post article 370 abrogation scenario, there is political vacuum in UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
To give a breather to people, the present dispensation must deliver in the better interests of people of JK and for development of the UT which in previous governments was missing. What has been observed in the past that is that thrusting a political leadership not acceptable to people and should thus be avoided and instead, the central and UT Government should watch and wait till there is an inner urge among the masses to have their own duly elected government.
Efforts should be made to eradicate corruption which has engulfed the entire polity and bureaucracy in Kashmir. Steps need to be taken by Government to weed out such malpractices which lead to pilferage of government funds by unscrupulous people working at different levels in the society and also Government must expose corrupt people who have looted the exchequer. Lastly, the Government should start such developmental programs which will create employment, ease out the problems being faced by the public and thus create an atmosphere of wellbeing amongst all sections of society.