New Delhi: While a curfew and total lockdown has been imposed in Kashmir since before the government’s decision to abrogate the Article 370 on August 5, the Centre has been trying to present a picture of “calm” and “peace” prevailing in the region. The latest was a photo op of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who was seen sharing a traditional Kashmiri meal with residents of Srinagar, while shuttered shops were visible in the background. However, reports presenting a different reality have started trickling in while the national media still continues to conveniently overlook what those – who have been affected by the government’s decision – have to say.
As per a report by Reuters, on Friday, August 9, many of the 10,000 people in Srinagar, who were protesting against the abrogation of Article 370, have received pellet gun injuries. Reports say that tear gas has also been used by the police to deter the protesters. The demonstration, which occurred in Soura area of Srinagar, was the largest gathering of the people since the imposition of a curfew in the Valley five days ago, a police official was quoted as saying. The report also stated that 12 people had been admitted in two hospitals after being injured at Soura.
Another report by The Wire stated that doctors and nurses at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital said that13 victims were admitted to the hospital on August 6 and eight more victims were admitted on August 7, who had received pellet injuries in their eyes and other parts of their bodies. In a video put out by The Wire, the reporter can be seen talking to the injured who have lost sight of either one or both their eyes.
The report further quotes one of the victims admitted in the hospital as claiming, “We were making rotis in our shop when the security forces said, ‘Are you going to feed Kashmiris bread? You should feed them poison.’ Then they shot into our shop and left us.” Even though the veracity of such claims cannot be determined, what becomes clear is the grave impunity with which security forces have been allowed to take over the Valley.
On the other hand, the telephone lines and internet remain disconnected in the Valley even after five days – standing testimony to the Centre’s attempt at silencing the voices of the actual stakeholders from the Valley. Not just that, over 500 leaders including former chief ministers, ministers, lawmakers, leaders and workers from political parties and separatist groups have been arrested, as per a police official who was quoted in the Reuters report.
Also read: Euphoria, Idealism Behind Article 370 Genesis Betrayed
Meanwhile, the government has been trying to portray that peace and normalcy have returned to the Valley. The prime minister, while addressing the nation on Thursday, said that the decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was taken with an aim to attract more investment and create more job opportunities in the disturbed region. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has been reported to have told the media that normalcy has already started returning to the region, and also emphasised that food supply, functioning of the hospitals andf newspaper circulation remain undisturbed in the state.
However, the despondency among residents can be discerned from this report by BBC. According to the report, “Thousands of gun-wielding troops patrol deserted streets that are barricaded with coils of razor wire, and residents remain locked up inside their homes.” Residents of the Valley who were shocked by the government order, are now determined to fight. A father, carrying his toddler in his arms, was quoted as saying that he is ready to pick up a gun against the government. A young man, who returned to Srinagar within 48 hours of the announcement, was quoted as saying, “It was said that in every family one brother is with the separatists and the other is with the [Indian] mainstream. Now the Indian government has united the two."
On Monday, August 5, the Centre had revoked the Article 370 which granted special status to the disputed region. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has also been divided into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The government’s announcement was preceded by massive troop build-up in the state, with over 35,000 personnel of the paramilitary and military forces being deployed.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, August 10, the Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson took to Twitter to declare the Reuters report of 10,000 demonstration as "fabricated" and that stray incidents have taken place involving not more than 20 people.
Also read: Kashmir: Why Amit Shah’s ‘Development’ Argument is a Hoax