5th August 2019 marked a dark day for the people of Kashmir. Now a year later the situation has only taken a toll for the worst; the lockdown which was imposed as a result of the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A persist, the economy remains crippled, and the human right violation has intensified, resulting in the state facing rising grievances with no prospect of prosperity and peace.
While the forces of brutality and injustice have reached its all-time high the narrative that is being propagated by Indian media tells a different story. According to (Firstpost) an Indian news outlet the revoking of Article 370 and Article 35A has worked in improving the socio-economic conditions of the state with a decline in terrorism and liberation of marginalized groups resulting in overall development in the valley region. These claims seem preposterous in light of all that has unfolded, the ground reality vastly differs from the advocating slogan of “Naya Kashmir” by the BJP led Indian government promising, a terror-free developed Kashmir. A year later the promise hung low, the envisioned image of Kashmir that was proclaimed now remains in tatters. The one year of lockdown has resulted in complete dissonance of economic, political, and social operations. The industry and commerce have taken the worst blow with the economy on the standstill and business on the verge of collapse. The impact of these actions have not stopped here, public health and the basic human right violation have profoundly been deteriorated. Even after lifting internet blackout which lasted for 175 isolating Kashmir from the rest of the world making it the longest internet shut down in history, the communication blackout has still not been lifted completely with the services being suspended from time to time. And above all, there has still been no elected official to represent the voices of the people of Kashmir.
What has been blatantly professed by BJP is the reduction of militant activities and curtailment of corruption. These claims by the home ministry seem absurd when according to the bi-annual report on human rights by The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) there have been 229 witnessed reports of killings in the first six months of 2020 including the execution of 32 civilians, the killing of 54 armed personnel, and 143 militants. South Asian Terrorism Portal reports 37 civilian deaths on grounds of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir dating from August 2019 to July 2020. The motive of such attacks spreads wide, ranging from religious strife to forced armed usage by militant groups. The 12 months of lockdown for people of Kashmir entailed harassment at checkpoints, illegal detention of children and women, unlawful denial of bail, with zero transparency resulting in a widespread violation of human rights and extreme disposition of terrorism.
Another tactic used by Indian media to present itself as the savior and beholder of justice is through revoking Article 35A and asserting itself as the liquidator to end all discrimination and marginal oppression based on granting domicile rights to non-Kashmiris. Whereas in reality, the impact of this action has resulted in demographic flooding orchestrated intentionally to undermine the state’s Muslim majority. This order is in direct violation with the 4th Geneva Convention which safeguards the rights of indigenous populations.
The much-championed declaration by the Indian Government has been regarding the progress of development that was to be witnessed by striping Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bringing it under the constitution of the Indian Parliament. It is still pushing the image of an economic boom when the economic condition has never been more paralyzing. Before the imposition of lockdown in August 2019 compared with many Indian states Jammu and Kashmir appeared on the better end of economic and human development indices. Now with the lockdown in position the economic strain has led the state in a downward spiral. According to The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), there has been a loss of $3.5 billion with more than 500,000 displacements of jobs with KCCI going in default and asking for a bailout for the survival of thousands of families. Despite all this Indian government is showcasing a flush of new development projects, the question arises how can a region withhold to stand development when its economy is in rumbles, with its people out of vocations, their homes shattered, isolated from the rest of the world with their voices long been stifled?
What we see is not just a pretense of development but a full-fledge war of narrative taking shape through the Indian media while the Kashmiri press has been severely muzzled, their journalist facing the worst burnt off it with harassment and threats subjugating their freedom of expression and making them abide by the state narrative, aided by the communication blockade new media policies curtailing the content by adhering it to the guidelines of the government and censoring any account that runs agnostic to its claims. With the press on its leash, freedom of expression restrained, India is playing the game of narrative with a cutthroat dictatorial regime.
Dua Sohail is a student of Social Sciences at IoBM. Her interests are Social Change, Modern Philosophy and Politics.