It was 2nd of Aug 2019 when Government of India had ordered the state seating authorities of Kashmir Division to issue a notice to order the tourists, especially Amaranth Yatris to leave the Kashmir valley as soon as possible.
The notice read “keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats , with specific targeting of the Amaranth Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and amaranth yatris. It is advised that they may curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible”
This was the moment that triggered Kashmiris as some so called rumors of scraping Art 35A, making Kashmir a Union Territory were already airing in the valley for the previous weeks prior to this notice. The BJP’s (Bartiya Janta Party) tree of propaganda had already rooted in the valley. The day after day any unusual news would flash my mobile screen. Thousands of paramilitary forces were deployed in the state, all the major state departments were asked to store food stuffs for the upcoming three four months. Some major transfers of senior Government officers were made immediately. So called rumors rang the palpitation of the people of Kashmir. Everybody was questioning to everyone. Something unexpected was going to take place. The whole valley was caught in dilemma. The foundation of BJP’s psychological warfare was not less than mass electrocution. Certainly some were sure that War between India and Pakistan is going to take place. As this speculation was also a part of propaganda chain. People started to compare the nuclear strength of both the countries, counting which country will support India and which Pakistan?
Although majority of the people knowing the disastrous consequences of nuclear war still all had a single line on the tip of tongue “Gachun goach Jung, Akey Saate Makleha Ye Kasheer huend neyae” let the war begin and resolve Kashmir issue once for all.
I was travelling in a public bus to University of Kashmir on Friday afternoon 2nd of Aug 2019 to stay with my friend in his rented room near University, for we had to reach the department too early to go for picnic next day. The bus was too crowded that I had to hang on by grasping an iron rod behind bus door. Suddenly my phone started ringing continuously but I avoided. At the same time news aired inside the bus about the notice that ordered the tourists to leave the valley. As soon as I got the seat I swiftly checked my phone and saw five missed calls from my mother’s number, called her back. She was highly tense, on the first go she asked me to return as soon as possible. After the call disconnected I clicked on facebook and saw the whole facebook wall decorated with that official notice. Even though it was a short and simple notice for the outsiders and tourists but was surely an imprisonment notice for the common people of Kashmir for the unlimited time. On reaching the room of my friend at Habbak Crossing Dargah Srinagar I was peering from a transparent window glass, companies of army men patrolling the streets. The state of fear didn’t allow me to stay there as my friends also planned to return their home just that day.
On return I saw huge lines outside ATMS and grocery shops, the city petrol pumps looked like the village springs, as people were carrying water utensils to get petrol. As of now the questions that BJP called rumors were taking shape to reality. The mainstream political leaders would still exclaim everything was normal; oh was everything normal? Not at all! Not at least for the poor people who had nothing to do with ATMS and Petrol pumps as of having no personal cars and bank accounts. I can tell you nobody in Kashmir might have slept well in these three nights. Again Modi addressed people somewhere in India where he made a statement about Kashmir “I have something special for the people of Kashmir that will be gifted to them on 5th of Aug 2019”.
As soon as the sun light on the 4th August afternoon started decreasing, tension, depression, fear and palpitation started increasing. Hence In the midnight of 4th August all the voice and data services were disabled and curfew announced.
Now in the morning of 5th August people were connected with TV’s to be updated about future of Kashmir. All the streets and public places were deserted, scary gusts of wind snatching the signal of my TV screen again and again. The places that were crowded with the people were engulfed with army men. Schools, colleges and universities closed. Surprisingly and suddenly afternoon my TV screen received the signal and the yellow bolded flash heading on red background flashed on the screen “Article 35A Scraped” and since Kashmir has been locked down, disconnected from the global family. Kashmiri students studying in outside states and countries were compassionately and tensely trying to connect their families by sending scripted or audio message to radio and some local channels.
Soonly all the mainstream political leaders who did hold their heads high and take oath under the Indian constitution to work for welfare of the people and nation, secure justice, liberty and fraternity, were arrested. All these leaders had promised the security of Article 35A to the people. But reversely people have still no concern on the arrest of these mainstream leaders. The common people of Kashmir consider them fruits of a single tree. Additionally all the Huriyat leaders, Islamic scholars and other prominent public figures were arrested and detained in unknown places. CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) an armed wing of India were given the vehicles with automated set CCTV camera’s to move around all the areas where protests would take place and catch the footage of protesters. On the nights CRPF would raid the houses of protesters and arrest them at nights and take all the protesters to the newly constructed jail in Agra UP Jail that is thousands of kms distant from Kashmir. Moreover this is another catastrophic thing to mention that none was allowed to keep any information about the arrested youth. If the guardians of the arrested youth would approach to the police station they repeatedly reply “we have no information, approach to those who arrested” hence thousands of youth were arrested overnight and sent to Agra Jail within few days.
It looked Kashmiris were fed volcanic lava that had torched everything inside without any noise. On one hand Kashmiris in other states and countries were dead worried about the prevailing situation in Kashmir on the other hand most of the Indian news channels did broadcast daily “Everything is normal in Kashmir” as all the local blogs, Facebook pages and websites that would carry the news with ground reality were shut due to internet shutdown. After protests took place in front of Indian embassies in different countries against the Indian crack down in Kashmir and after the international pressure to know the updates of Kashmir governor of the state arranged a press conference on 16th of august which was attended by his secretary who assured the world through his pre scripted white lies that all is well in Kashmir.
I was collecting all the data about the daily happenings here in Kashmir and the piece you are currently reading was written 20th august but due to the continuous internet shutdown I could not get it published. What happened in these six months here in Kashmir? Cannot be disclosed in a single piece thus I had divided it into parts. What happened after 16th of Aug wait for next? I may or may not be able to send you next part soonly as I am myself connected by using VPNs.
by: Saif Ali Budgami
(M.A Political Science & International Relations)