Home >Opinion >Columns >Winds of change blow in the Kashmir valley

In Jammu and Kashmir, on the second anniversary of the repeal of Article 370, nothing happened like what the separatists were expecting. There were some protests, of course, but the same faces appeared in it, whose dissent has already become stale. On the other hand, rallies with the tricolour were held at various places in the Valley. This could not have been imagined before. These are the places where the flags of Pakistan used to wave and the Quami Tarana (national anthem of Pakistan) could be heard.

Though the shutters of shops did not open in the old markets on 5 August, was it a symbol of mukhalifat (resistance), fear or doubt? Listen to this story. A lot will become clearer.

I met that man fortuitously. Trembling on his numb legs, moving with the help of a stick, he was looking for some help from the government. What had happened to him?

Hear his story in his own words: “I was returning home after shopping. The evening was almost over and it was getting dark. Suddenly, two people stopped me and asked ‘Is your name...?’ I said ‘Yes’. As soon as I said that, one of them hit me on the back of my neck with a staff. When I fell down, one of them asked me, ‘Did you vote?’ I said ‘Yes’. He drew a pistol. I started begging, but he could not be dithered. I was shot in the legs and they disappeared."

He said he went to several leaders, but no one listened. He went to the authorities and got aid of 75,000. “My brother has also been promised a police job. This is why we have come here," he said.

I’m not revealing his identity on his request, but his story can answer all the questions about today’s Kashmir. The terrorists wanted to make him a moving pamphlet against Indian democracy. However, they failed miserably. After casting his vote without being distracted by threats, now he is fighting for his rights under the Indian Constitution. His story tells us how Kashmir is changing now, after going through all the ups and downs. Now, the painful stories of the common people there are not unheard.

He told me, in detail, how the attitude of the bureaucracy under the previous governments of the two dynasties was decided on the basis of the personal gain and loss of the chief minister. In this regard, lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha shared an interesting insight: There used to be two types of MLAs. One of the people and the other of the collector. The district administration used to do what the other MLA wanted. It was this combination of bureaucracy and leaders that led the Valley to this misery.

This eye-opening talk took place two weeks before the second anniversary of the repeal of Article 370. I had even recorded it. I asked him if those who had attacked him were caught. His answer was that they had covered their faces and thus he did not recognize them. “I’m definitely not in a position to say anything," he said. These are the things that worry the security agencies.

During this visit, I met a top intelligence official. “We basically categorize these terrorists nurtured by Pakistan into three," he said. “Those who carry guns and regularly announce on social media that they are mujahideen. Second, those who are partly involved in terrorism because of unemployment or as a pastime. These are the people who carry out grenade attacks or other small attacks. There is another category, those who use social media to provoke the masses. People belonging to the latter two categories are more dangerous. They live a normal life but pursue the attitude of a terrorist. No one knows their deeds, that is why the neighbours support them when they are raided. Some of the people from this category work to spread ideology. They call themselves journalists. It is difficult to overcome their duplicity, but we are on the right track."

Pakistan wants at least 200 armed terrorists to be active in the Valley and the police are still looking for around 180 of these. This does not mean that terrorism is still prevalent. Now, these so-called jihadists do not get a chance to become heroes. The reason? The empowerment of the J&K Police has increased its ability to communicate with the villagers. Most of the youth fall into the hands of the security forces before they cause trouble.

According to inspector-general of police Vijay Kumar, 1,394 incidents of stone-pelting were recorded between August 2017 and July 2019, which dropped to 382 in the next year. In those two years, 27 civilians and four security personnel were killed. In the past year, this figure has reached zero. Similarly, there has been a significant decline in terrorist incidents.

Is that enough? No. There are many problems in the Valley. The separatist sentiments have been fed by the shaky syllabus of primary schools and madrasas in Kashmir. A new syllabus is being implemented from August to deal with this. At the same time, a list of teachers, state workers and officials with a separatist attitude or those who are nurturing terrorists has also been compiled. So far, action has been taken against more than 100 people.

Despite all these efforts, it will take some time to win the trust of the masses in the Valley. There are many wounds on the hearts and minds of this land and its descendants, which need to be healed with the efforts of the government. This is also the answer to the occasional shutdown of the markets and sponsored protests in the Valley.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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