15/08/2019 11:02 AM IST

The Growing Chasm Between Modi's Promises of Development And Kashmir's Continued Darkness

Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps saying that Jammu and Kashmir will develop after the abrogation of Article 370, but reports from the region paint a grim picture.

Kashmiris living in New Delhi gather for a function to observe Eid al-Adha away from their homes. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address on India’s 73rd Independence Day, referred to the abrogation of Article 370 and asserted that his government neither nurses problems nor keeps them pending. India, he said, is now one nation with one Constitution.

Even during his address to the nation on 8 August, three days after the government’s shock move to repeal Jammu & Kashmir’s special status, Modi had said that Article 370 and Article 35A have given nothing but secessionism, terrorism, nepotism and widespread corruption to the state. “After the removal of this flaw from the system, the people of Jammu and Kashmir will not only have a better present but also a bright future ahead.”

In an interview to IANS on Wednesday, he reiterated that “For years, intimidation ruled the roost. Let us now give development a chance.” He assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh that these regions will develop as per the wishes of the local people. 

For Modi, ‘development’ has become a refrain while talking about Jammu and Kashmir, and the government is at pains to make it seem like everyone in J&K is happy with the move. But media reports trickling in from the Valley, which is still under lockdown, paint a very different picture. Safwat Zargar’s reports for HuffPost India make it clear that the arbitrary, illegal detentions continue, and that protests are being dealt with violently, using pellet guns. With the communication blackout still in place, we are still to hear from ordinary Kashmiris themselves about what exactly is happening to them.  

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What Modi said about Jammu and Kashmir on August 15 2019:

“Our government does not delay decisions. We neither nurse problems nor keep them pending,” Modi said while referring to Article 370.

Previous governments made efforts in the past 70 years to deal with Kashmir, but it did not bear results, he said, adding “a new approach was needed”.

Within 70 days of the new Government, Article 370 has become history and 2/3rd members in both the Houses of Parliament supported this step, he added. 

The Prime Minister also said that Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh can contribute in a big way in India’s development. “We can return the region to its past glory.”

What Modi said last year:

In his Independence Day 2018 speech, Modi had said that the path shown by Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the right one. “We want to move ahead on that road. Vajpayeeji said Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat (humanism, democracy, Kasmiriyat)–with these three basic elements we want to develop Jammu & Kashmir. Whether it is Ladakh or Jammu or Srinagar valley.”

“We want balanced development where an ordinary person’s aspirations are fulfilled, infrastructure is strengthened; we want to move ahead with brotherhood in our hearts. We do not want to move on the road of bullets and abuses, we want to move ahead with love and affection with the Kashmiri people who have stood with us in patriotic fervour.”

Meanwhile, what’s happening in Kashmir?

Since the government abrogated Article 370, the entire region has been under lockdown and communication services remain snapped. With the information blackout, we have had to depend on disparate news reports to find out what is going on in Kashmir. 

Some journalists told Al-Jazeera that the situation is “unprecedented” and that they are sending their stories and photographs through USB drives with people flying out of Kashmir. Local journalists are still unable to do their jobs properly, with no mobile or Internet to aid their work. A Newslaundry report says that in Srinagar, local journalists “often have to lie to get past paramilitary check-posts”. 

The government’s ‘All is Well’ claims are also at odds with stories published by some Indian media organisations, as well as foreign ones such as BBC and Reuters. While BBC and Al-Jazeera have released videos of demonstrations taking place in Srinagar, the government has dismissed them as “fabricated”.

Women’s rights activist Kavita Krishnan, who just returned from a five-day fact-finding mission from Kashmir, told HuffPost India’s Betwa Sharma that “people feel a complete sense of anger and betrayal. There is helplessness, frustration.”

She also said that children have been arrested in Kashmir. “They have been picked up from their homes in the middle of the night from their beds and they are held indefinitely, illegally, either in army camps or in police stations. They are being beaten up. Their parents have no way of ascertaining whether their children will disappear or be returned.” 

The decision to abrogate Article 370 has also claimed at least one civilian victim — a 17-year-old boy — in Srinagar, as HuffPost India had reported before. 

Government officials, as Safwat Zargar points out in this HuffPost India report, have refused to tell journalists how many people have been arrested or detained in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370. IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal was detained in New Delhi on Wednesday without cause and taken to an undisclosed location. Meanwhile, three former Chief Ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — continue to remain under detention.

Additional Director General Munir Khan on Wednesday said that while restrictions in Jammu have been lifted, they will continue for a while longer in some places in Kashmir.

Even the promises of investment and development in Kashmir have being questioned by Sheikh Ashiq, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry, who told HuffPost India’s Piyasree Dasgupta that Kashmir needs peace and assurance before jobs. 

“How will we prosper when the situation is very far from being normal in the state. We don’t have working landlines, internet and mobile phones and how can I explain how this will be good for any business?” he asked.

(With PTI inputs)