Jammu: Since the past two days, Kashmiris have been living in perpetual fear. The news of sudden dispatch of 10,000 additional forces to Kashmir, along with the latest order seeking details of the mosques, has triggered apprehensions over the abrogation of Article 35A, which confers special rights to the permanent residents of the state. The latest order, issued by the Srinagar senior superintendent of police, directs zonal SPs to provide the list of mosques in the city and also its management committees.
The order reads, “Please provide details of mosques and their managements falling with your respective jurisdictions as per proforma to this office immediately for onward submission to higher authorities. As per the format. The requisite information should reach DPO Srinagar tomorrow on 29-07-2019 at 1000 Hrs sharp with soft copy. Urgent.”
The flow of orders started after National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval completed his two-day visit to Kashmir. It is said that the meeting was held to brief Doval about the security scenario in the valley.
Even after the authorities assertion that deployment was part of a normal routine, the slew of orders, one after another, are adding to the existing anxieties of the residents.
It may also be recalled that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is ruling at the Centre, had stated in its 2019 election manifesto that it was committed to annulling Article 35A. “We reiterate our position, since the time of the Jan Sangh, to the abrogation of Article 370," the manifesto or Sankalp Patra of the party said.
Meanwhile, an atmosphere of panic is palpable among people in the Valley.
“It’s an attempt to gag the social, political and religious life of a Kashmiri. There is obfuscation in the orders which fuelling further fear and alienation. They deployed troops for Amarnath Yatra, which was welcomed by everyone, but more than a religious exercise, it has taken a shape of a military exercise. But let me tell you when fear psychosis is created, it unites people. People will unite and resist it because they are left with no option. Going by the recent orders it feels that New Delhi has some ill advisors on Kashmir,” said Saqib Yetoo, a Kashmiri student from St Stephen’s College.
It’s pertinent to note that 40,000 paramilitary personnel have already been deployed for guarding the ongoing Amarnath Yatra that will culminate on August 15. This is not the first time. After the deadly Pulwama suicide attack in February 2019, similar trepidation was witnessed in Kashmir, fuelled by obscure orders, which later saw India and Pakistan at the brink of war.
The fresh orders have once again stoked apprehensions about Article 35A, sending political parties in panic mode too.
According to news agency PTI, People’s Democratic Party leader and former state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has asked rival National Conference president and former CM Farooq Abdullah to convene and all-party meeting to discuss the prevailing situation.
"In light of recent developments that have caused a sense of panic amongst people in J&K, I've requested Dr Farooq Abdullah sahab to convene an all party meeting. Need of the hour is to come together & forge a united response. We the people of Kashmir need to stand up as one (sic)," Mufti wrote on Twitter.
As per reports, mainstream political parties have started their efforts to seek clarity from the Centre with Abdullah requesting an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Fear as a Weapon
Henry Louis Mencken, an American journalist and essayist once wrote, “The whole aim of political parties is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” Mencken’s assertion seems true in Kashmir.
The entire valley remains entrenched in fear, trying to guess what the BJP-led Centre’s next move will be. Some local people were even seen panic-buying essentials items.
Human rights activist Khurram Parvez termed the current situation as “using fear as the permanent weapon against the people of Kashmir.”
Parvez told NewsClick, “It’s not about one order or the other but the aim to create fear among people. It is more about using fear as permanent tactic of war in Kashmir. Government of India thinks it will achieve much but we have seen all over the world where people have tried to use fear. Overusing fear leads to more violence. It is not in the interest of India. It is not in the interest of Kashmir. Creating fear psychosis will make people angrier and, may be, more violent.”
For academician and senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Siddiq Wahid, the Centre’s policy is similar to what Israel has done in Gaza. “One day after other, we hear something or the other that has been done anew. And this is a policy which is very much in keeping with what Israel has done in Gaza in order to confine the people to their own territory.”
“I don’t think there is something nefarious going on but it is certainly intended for making an inventory of every single person in this valley in a bid to keep a record of everything,” Wahid added.