NEW DELHI: Kashmir completes 100 days of a lockdown on Wednesday following the abrogation of the special constitutional status of the state on August 5.
Normal life continues to elude the valley with several schools and colleges shut, Internet services suspended and prepaid mobile services barred.
More than three months ago, New Delhi repealed Article 370 of the constitution which gave special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
It also bifurcated the state into two Union Territories (UT) – UT of Ladakh and UT of Jammu and Kashmir. A UT is a centrally administered unit where the power of the local legislature becomes subservient to the will of the lieutenant governor, a bureaucrat appointed by New Delhi.
Major mainstream leaders, including three former chief ministers of the state, continue to remain under house arrest, and nearly 3,000 civilians from different parts of the state are being held in different jails across the country.
The shops in Srinagar and other parts of the valley remain shut with businesses operating for a few hours every day.
“This is our way of resisting,” Qurban Ali, a cloth merchant in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar, said.
“New Delhi wants us to open the shop normally but people want to resist the dictates of the government. They want to tell the government that we are not happy with the decision to abrogate Article 370, or the bifurcation of the state,” Ali told Arab News.
Ghulam Rasool of Pulwama district in South Kashmir has been struggling to get his 21-year-old son released from a detention center for the past three months.
“The security forces picked up my son in August as a preventive measure fearing protest. He has been put in a jail in Agra in Uttar Pradesh and despite so many entreaties he has not yet been released. It’s really painful to see my young son languishing in jail,” he said.
Professor Sheikh Showkat of the Central University of Kashmir said: “I have not held a single class for more than three months. It feels so painful to be deprived of the pleasure of teaching. The university is only conducting necessary exams without holding classes. Students don’t come to the campus out of fear.”
He told Arab News: “I cannot remain cut off from the internet. There are some important conferences and papers to present and for that I need internet. My daughter also travelled to Delhi last time to download some important study materials.
“Kashmir has been excommunicated in this modern world. We have been deprived of modern means of communication. How long this will go one only Delhi can tell you. We have been pushed into this situation.
“New Delhi took the drastic decision of abrogating the special status without understanding the situation and without knowing the consequences. It’s now 100 days and the government does not know what to do. The irony is that this government has dismantled the structure they built in 70 years. They have also now alienated all those who have been with India. Kashmir has never been internationalized so much as it is now all because of the folly of Delhi.
“With each passing day India looks more distant. The dance of majoritarianism in the mainstream India with almost all wings of the state showing disregard to the secular values, the people in Kashmir feel more nervous.”
Srinagar-based Professor Siddiq Wahid said: “I don’t see any change taking place in the next 100 days also. No reach out to people at all. The government remains in complete denial of the criticism it is facing.
“People will continue with the resistance and they will sustain the civil disobedience against the government.”
Jammu-based Ajay Sadotra of National Conference, the oldest regional party of Kashmir, said: “People are in trouble in the valley. It’s three months still there is no attempt by the government to reach out to the people. Allow democracy to breathe in the valley.”
He told Arab News: “It’s sad that all the important leaders are still in jail and the government is more keen to manipulate media and manage headlines rather than genuinely attempt to restore normality in the state.”
Srinagar-based Dr. Hina Bhat of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said: “It is to the credit of the government that in three months no major casualties have taken place in the valley despite the landmark political decision.
“There is no curfew, no clampdown, no restrictions. If people are not opening shops it is because of the threat from the separatist groups and militants,” she added.
Bhat told Arab News: “Despite the presence of militants in the valley the situation has remained under the control of the government. I feel this is remarkable.
“Right now we cannot think of the democratic process. If you release the political leaders there are chances that they might provoke people to protest and this will lead to killings.
"Elections will take place when there is a little normality. The government is taking steps and I am sure with time life will resume when people see the good works of the government.”