“Unfortunately, the middle ground has been completed wiped out in Kashmir and I don’t know what the way forward is,” Sinha said in an exclusive chat with TwoCircles.net before his group left the Valley on Monday evening.
Sinha said that he fears that Government’s use of force will invite retaliation from the people of Kashmir. “I only hope that that will not happen. My urgent plea to the people of Kashmir is to not take that route,” he said.
Sinha arrived in the summer capital Srinagar on Friday as part of “Concerned Citizens’ Group” (CCG) to assess the ground situation in the region.
Other members of the group include former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, journalist Bharat Bhushan and activist Sushoba Bharve.
Sinha was earlier not allowed to visit Kashmir in September and was sent back to New Delhi from Srinagar Airport. This time they were allowed to visit but were confined to the hotel.
Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha (L) along with journalist Bharat Bhushan.
“Once we reached our hotel in Srinagar we realised we are being confined here. We wanted to go to Pulwama and we were told in writing that there is an impending terrorist threat the next day. We intended to visit Shopian but we were not allowed again. They (Security agencies) would write names of people who came to meet us on reception; they would monitor our every action,” Sinha said, adding that they have been under heavy security cover here in the hotel.
Sinha said that they are feeling disappointed as they were confined to Srinagar district only by the security agencies who cited militancy issues for them not to visit any other area of Kashmir.
He said they couldn’t meet the persons they intended to gauge the situation at ground level.
Soon after their arrival, the group met several delegations of traders and businessmen. According to reports, they also interacted with representatives of civil society groups and the Kashmiri Pandit community at a local hotel.
Sinha said the silence of Kashmiris after August 5 is having a tremendous impact. “People have not taken to violence, which is already having an impact. Barring a few incidents of violence, there has been no large-scale violence and the credit for that goes to the people of Kashmir, not the Government of India,” the former finance minister said.
Sinha urged that non-violence has more power than violence. “With the number of boots on the ground here, there is no way violence will be allowed to succeed. But non-violence will succeed,” he said.
Sinha said despite being barred from going outside his group met several delegations from South to Central Kashmir. “Everyone is extremely unhappy. There is an atmosphere of fear here. Nobody knows how the future is going to turn out,” Sinha said. He added that Kashmiris have suffered enormous economic and financial loss post the abrogation of Article 370.
“Trade, transport and tourism have been affected. Fruit traders have been severely affected due to early snowfalls. Even if the shops are open, many people don’t have money to buy goods,” he said after meeting with several delegations.
Sinha further said his group had visited Kashmir many times in the past, but this was the first time they were barred from travelling freely.
“I think the only reason could be that they (Government) don’t want us to see the ground reality. If we would have been allowed to travel around the valley, we could have understood the ground situation. But many people from the south Kashmir came to talk to us when they learned that we are here,” he added.
He further said that they have been pleading for the beginning of a dialogue process for years.
“We are having a dialogue at the civil society level but it doesn’t help. It the government of India which must engage people here and be part of the dialogue process,” he said.
He further asserted that he doesn’t know whether their visit will have a positive impact in the long run or not. But he added he will try to inform Indians about the situation in Kashmir.
“Our visit was for the people of Kashmir to show them that there are people in India who are concerned with their plight and therefore we came here,” he said. “Many people have written about the situation in Kashmir, but the atmosphere of fear that prevails here is also prevailing in the rest of the country,” he added.
Sinha added that the militarization that has taken place in Kashmir since August 5 is far greater than ever in the past. “This is the most disturbing aspect of the present situation in Kashmir,” he added.
Courtesy: Two Circles