Even though the mobile internet facility was restored in the district of Kargil in Ladakh this Friday, Kashmir is still reeling under a communication blackout that was imposed on the 5th of August this year and there are no signs of the shut down coming to an end anytime soon.
Today is the 146th day since the Home Minister of India did abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provided a special set of rights to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, without their consent and imposed a draconian communications ban in the state apart from arresting prominent politicians of that state. To this day many of them continue to remain in custody with no clarity of when they will be released.
Was the shut down really necessary?
I wish there was at least one argument that I could come up with to justify the futility of snatching away the rights of so many people and making them feel like prisoners in their own country. I wish I could tell you that there is some extraordinarily noble intention of our government behind this act of trampling down the rights of so many citizens at one go and treating the entire population of that state as a nasty trouble-making kid that needs to be taught a lesson that they will never forget.
The truth is that we don’t want to hear the voices of dissent coming from the valley. We are prepared to trivialize every single concern that they have with the actions of the politicians sitting in Delhi as long as it suits our biased narrative. Most of you may not agree with this but it is a fact that some of the decisions taken by the governments at the centre (be it the Indian National Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party) have been unbelievably high-handed with almost no concern about the impact it has on the local population.
Who else do we hold accountable for the heavy rigging of state elections, the alleged extrajudicial killings, the repeated curfews and internet bans, the usage of pellet guns which are known to cause grievous and in some cases fatal injuries, the highly questionable disappearances of ordinary Kashmiris from our jails, the unmarked graves and the exile of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits at gunpoint from the valley? Do we have any plan at all on how to create a conducive enough environment, where there are no guns, for the Pandits to feel safe enough to go back to the valley?
All these policies undertaken by the politicians have alienated the locals of that state even further and instead of trying to make the situation better, we go ahead and cut off their primary source of communication with the rest of the world. On what pretext? That they will protest against the completely unconstitutional measures that we took on the 5th of August. Or that the protest will turn violent?
Who is responsible for this madness?
Do we have any right to seal the fate of so many people without even asking them what they want? Who there hell do we think we to decide on the fate of an entire state by first removing the one act that promised them a sense of autonomy within the Indian state, the very autonomy that we had promised them at the time of independence (we have done the same with other states as well), then dividing the entire state into two and downgrading both of them into union territories, heavily restricting the movement of journalists who wanted to report on the situation in that state, not allowing our own politicians to visit (just because they are in the opposition) but gladly allowing politicians from Europe to do so?
The arguments used by those advocating the shut down have also been extremely perplexing. Arguments about ending terrorism (but how?), giving a much-needed boost to the local economy and create more jobs (when the exact opposite has happened since the 5th of August), inability of Indians from outside the state to purchase land in Kashmir (you also cannot purchase land in states like Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim) or the fact that Kashmir has a flag of its own besides the National Flag (Nagaland also wants one, do we clamp down on that state as well?) does not in any way justify what has been done to that state. The least that political parties could have done is to try and understand the point of view of Kashmiris and let them have the final say.
Our government claims to represent the will of Kashmiris when the reality is that many of our solutions for their problems have been extremely oppressive. And this is affecting their daily lives which are leading to crippling physical and mental health problems. We cannot go on like this for long.
End the shut down immediately
What happened since the clampdown has affected everyone in the state. It is not business as usual as the government claims. In fact, businesses have suffered severe losses. Normal life has been completely disrupted and lack of internet is resulting in the kind of problems that you and I cannot even imagine. Anyone who thinks that life without internet is no big deal should read this Instagram post to understand the actual reality. The press has been forced into an involuntary retirement for now. Students are facing extreme difficulties in even applying for various competitive examinations. Joblessness is rampant and let us not even talk about the international ramifications of this move. I don’t even want to try and make sense of their thinking behind such a drastic and deplorable move because I cannot find any.
This has been the longest ever shut down imposed by a Democratic nation. No one who believes that India is a democratic country can be proud of such a record. So please, for the love of anything and everything that you hold dear, restore the internet services in Kashmir as you have done for Kargil.
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