Kashmir ‘normal’? Reality round-up 107 days after shutdown

Contrary to popular narrative, Kashmir’s wounds brought on by the government still run deep


On August 5, 2019, the Indian government imposed a clampdown on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, transforming it into a Union Territory after the abrogation of Article 370. What followed was a complete communication blockade, where telephone and internet services were suspended and a curfew-like situation was unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens.

There was no contact between families, healthcare facilities stood suspended, trade suffered losses of over 10,000 crore, the IT sector crashed, thousands lost their jobs, children were illegally detained, journalists were restricted from covering the ground reality and many non-locals lost their lives in attacks by militants.

Today, even after 107 days, the woes of Kashmir do not seem to be nearing to an end.

Saffron produce

The costliest spice, saffron is known as a distinct agricultural produce and is grown in Pampore, near Srinagar. This year, due to the early, heavy rainfall, 40 percent of the crop suffered irreversible damage putting the farmers at a heavy loss.

Farmers, who were expecting a good crop, said that the scanty rain in the past few years did not help a good yield. The annual saffron harvest is completed in four to five phases from October 20 to November 10 every year. But the untimely snowfall caused 35 to 40 percent loss because of being buried under the snow, said a District Officer.

Most of the farmers had completed three rounds of picking of the delicate saffron flowers when the untimely snowfall hampered the subsequent couple of harvests. As compared to the previous two or three years, the expected target was much higher this year, farmers had also said that the crop was better as compared to the previous years, but the bad weather played spoiled sport, said Abdul MajeedWani, president of the J&K Saffron Growers’ Association.

The Department of Agriculture has deputed its teams in coordination with those from the Revenue Department to assess the extent of damage and compensation to the saffron growers under the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF), reported Tribune India.

Income Tax Returns

Last Tuesday, journalists in the Valley staged a peaceful protests demanding that the government restore internet services and end the problems of the locals and scribes alike. With high-speed broadband being suspended, journalists have not been able to file their stories in time. Trades that rely heavily on internet bookings (carpet trade, hotel bookings, etc) have taken a huge hit for the same reason.

Trade bodies have said that they are unable to file their Goods and Services (GST) IT returns in the wake of the internet shutdown. NeerajAnand, President, Chamber of Traders Federation (CTF) has said that the business community has found it very difficult to run their business. Chartered Accountants had earlier complained that it was cumbersome to conduct tax audits due to poor internet connectivity.

In September, Praveen Khandelwal, National Secretary General at Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said that GST returns filed in J&K had falledn to Rs. 25 crore in September, compared to Rs. 164 crore in July.

The government had also planned an investor summit in the Valley in October which stands cancelled since the situation in the Valley has not yet improved. With trade losses pegged at more than a billion dollars, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) is contemplating suing the government for damages.

Transport hampered

The militant attacks on migrants in Kashmir has left the administration scrounging to save face after boasting about its security arrangements. It has now decided to not allow non-local truckers to venture into the villages in south Kashmir. The drivers are being asked to park their trucks along the NH-44 to load goods and leave the Valley, reported The Tribune.

Post October 7, more than 10 non-locals, including five truck drivers and five labourers from Bengalhave been killed, mostly in the Shopian and Kulgam districts. The government has now demarcated pick-up points for the truckers and parking spaces along the NH-44.

“We do not want innocent people to get killed. Lives of truck drivers are of utmost importance, business comes after that,” a group of farmers said. A senior police officer from south Kashmir maintained that it was a temporary arrangement. “We hope things get better at the earliest so that truckers can travel to these parts again,” the officer said.

The government however, has maintained its narrative that ‘all is well’ in Kashmir. Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday in the RajyaSabha said that the situation in Kashmir is “fully normal”. He boasted that not one person died due to police firing even though Opposition members were predicting bloodshed, while also saying that stone-pelting incidents had reduced from 802 last year to 544 this year. He should know that 544 incidents are still 544 more than 0.

When he was asked about restoring internet services, he skirted the issue saying that the decision for the same was in the hands of the local administration and that for his government in the fight against terror, he needed to prioritize his necessities.

One should note that Opposition MP’s are still not allowed to visit the Valley and several others are still under detention (for national security, as per the government). This, even when the government had itself invited Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to witness the ground reality in Kashmir, apparently to give them a sense of the threat of terrorism and “promoter deeper people to people contact”.

However, a day after Shah’s statements, the Valley saw a shutdown, with all shops and establishments closed and public transport staying off roads as well.

Though the shutdown seems spontaneous, in absence of a call given by any political party or a separatist group, media reports said posters appeared in some parts of the Valley, warning shopkeepers against opening their establishments appeared in some areas, The Outlook India reported.

Consistent false narratives to drown out the truth has always been the tool of the ruling party. However, the reality is there for everyone to see.



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