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In Delhi, dismay and despair

‘It’s a psychological war’

Unable to communicate with family in the Valley, kashmiri students are anxious to go back home

ANUSUYA SOM

The government claims to have set a new path for the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir but Kashmiris studying in Delhi aren’t buying the narrative.

Waseem is a resident of Kulgam district of Jammu & Kashmir and is currently doing his PhD in physics from Jamia Millia Islamia. He tells Newslaundry: “We do not want the abrogation of Article 370 because we have a unique culture and we want to keep it intact. If it was imperative for the government to take a decision on 370, it could have been done in a democratic way. The people of Kashmir have been completely left out of this decision and we are not comfortable with that. The government knows that, hence the curfew. And this is being done in the name of democracy — which is an irony itself because people are locked up and we are making a decision for them without their consent.”

He asks: “If the government thinks revoking 370 from the Valley will not disturb the situation, then why the curfew? Lift the curfew and then you will get to know what Kashmiris think.” He says it isn’t the “right time” to impose curfew in the state either: “Eid is around the corner and we don’t even know whether we can go home or not. We are discriminated [against] from the moment we say we are from Kashmir. While students from other parts of India can openly say which state they are from, we can’t. If we do, we’re asked: why not India, why Kashmir?***

Abida is from Kashmir’s Kulgam district and is doing her PhD in bioscience from Jamia Milia Islamia. Her father is retired and is, she says, quite old. Abida is initially nervous as she speaks to this reporter—she constantly looks at her friend Waseem for validation and to check if she’s being politically correct.

She says, “The Indian media portrays a very different picture of Kashmir which is not true. We are just students, we should not be scared of anything. We should be able to express ourselves freely if this is a democratic country. But unfortunately it is not so, and the Indian media has played a crucial role in creating this image. It never shows the real ground reality and students like us who come out of Kashmir know it best. We know both facets of the coin.”

Abida refers to the advisory issued by the government on August 3 asking Amarnath Yatra pilgrims and tourists to leave the Valley due to “security concerns”. She asks, “If the government can issue an advisory to call back the pilgrims and tourists, why can’t they issue another for us? At least we could have remained connected to our parents. By abrogating the article, they’ve created more resentment among Kashmiris and disturbed the peace in the Valley.”

On August 2, 25,000 additional central armed police forces were deployed in the Valley. August 2 was also the last time Abida spoke to her parents; she hasn’t been able to establish contact since. In their last conversation, her parents told her: “Forces have been increased in the Valley and we don’t know what is going to happen.”

Abida says, “We have already lost our identity and now we can’t even contact our parents. It is like we are going through a psychological war.”

Bilal Ahmad Tamtray is a second-year student of MA International Affairs at Jamia Millia Islamia. Initially hesitant, his voice gains confidence as he speaks. Bilal is from Srinagar and his father is associated with the media. An active member of the All India Student Association, Bilal will be participating in a protest against the abrogation of Article 370.

“Since the last couple of days, we were expecting something to happen. A lot of things were happening which were completely disjointed: pilgrims were ferried back, troops were increased and then there was an undeclared curfew. This was the worst-case scenario. But honestly, I did not expect this to happen.”

Bilal says he still has faith in the Indian Constitution and expects people to come out and raise their voice. “The issue is no longer only about Kashmir anymore because a  precedent has been set that a group of people is going to make a decision—whatever they think is right—and is not answerable to anyone.”

www.newslaundry.com  

Fruitless days for apple dealers

For 300 traders of Azadpur Mandi, the clampdown means severe loss in business as truckloads of apples fail to arrive in the wholesale market

MOHD AAKIF

Apple harvest time is in full swing in Kashmir — the season begins in July and runs to December. Apart from its picturesque beauty, Kashmir is well known for its flavoursome apples and regarded as the nerve centre of the apple trade in India. It’s a Rs 8,000 crore industry that makes a major contribution to the Indian economy.

At Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s biggest fruit market, traders expect colossal losses in the near term if the situation in Kashmir doesn’t settle down soon. The wholesale market gets an estimated flow of 5,000–8,000 trucks per day fully loaded with varieties of fruits and vegetables, including 60% of Kashmir’s apple produce.

The fruit is not only transported all over the country from here, it is also packaged for export. Naturally, stakeholders are in a state of agitation, having given big advances to orchards in Kashmir. According to Kamal Ahmed, who works for Apple Trading Company, “The turnover of our company is around Rs 6-7 crore. We invested around Rs 3-4 crore this season but seeing what’s happening right now, it seems like all our money and effort will go in vain. We are unable to contact most of the dealers in Kashmir and only few are in our contact. I hope everything will settle down soon”.

Asked about the overall condition of the market, he says, “We are not getting enough trucks of apples from Kashmir. Earlier, we used to get 1,500–1,700 truckloads per season but for the past few weeks there has been a decline in the sales. We have not earned the kind of profit we are used to”.

Other traders say the most traded fruit in July-August is apple. Approximately 50,000 trucks of apples come per season from Kashmir while Himachal sends merely 12,000 trucks per season. About 300 businessmen are completely dependent on the apple trade.

The impact on Indian consumers may not be so much, as India imports apples from various countries, especially from the US. India imports 24 times more apples than it produces. But apples from the US, of topnotch quality, are quite expensive, meaning it is the common man, as usual, who will suffer if supply from Kashmir tapers off.

Only four states produce apples in India: Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. Most of the apple orchards are in J&K, which is why it has more apple dealers than any other state.  For the past few years, trade in Kashmiri apples declined due to natural calamities as well as hindrances due to terrorist activity.

For some reason, the demand for apples from Sopore, which sell all over the country, declined by more than 50% last year.

Will the government crackdown lead to bigger losses? Azadpur Mandi is abuzz with such questions but there are no answers. They dread being told that their stock has rotted away.

Spreading hate

Social media is filled with a disturbing trend of misogynist and jingoistic posts after the removal of Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir

Shaunak Ghosh

“Mere kuware bhaiyo, ab Kashmir tumhara sasural hoga (My bachelor brothers, now Kashmir will be where your in-laws live) reads the text of one of the most viral videos on the Tiktok app right now.

The announcement by Home Minister Amit Shah made waves in the entire country (except Jammu and Kashmir, of course!), with people visibly elated, their understanding being that Kashmir is now fully integrated in India. This elation not only reached the streets but also on every corner of social media, as memes and posts were abuzz all platforms

But what was the content on most of these posts? Mostly sexist in nature like the one mentioned above.

A video shows three men in front of a shop, where they discuss the benefits of the removal of Article 370. One of them says, “Ab Kashmir ki lugayi milegi humein” (We’ll get a wife from Kashmir now).

Several such copycat videos have the same kind of content: Indian men fantasising about marrying “hot Kashmiri women, jo saalon se asli mardon ke liye tadap rahi hain” (Hot Kashmiri women, who are waiting for years for a real man), as another Tiktok user claims.

These type of posts are however, not limited to just the video creating app. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are scattered with such posts where Indian men are elated at the fact that they can now marry (read own) Kashmiri women.

According to real-time Google trends on Monday, search terms like “Kashmiri girls for marriage” were the number one trending search all over the country – a fact that is quite shocking and disturbing at the same time.

Even Muzaffarnagar BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini, in a speech urged his “BJP brothers” to go marry “fair- skinned Kashmiri women”.

First things first. There was never a law that prohibited Kashmiri women to marry outside their community. The laws only stated that if she marries a non-Kashmiri, their children would not have the right to inherit any property in the state. So, first of all, all these men claiming that their road to marry Kashmiri women is now clear, should know that they are spreading nothing but fake news.

Secondly, there is a term called consent, which these social media ‘celebrities’ (read creeps) with thousands of followers somehow fail to understand. Kashmiri women surely have much better things to do than marry these people, but if one genuinely likes a Kashmiri girl, go approach her and ask for her consent — not force her to marry you. What these videos and posts are doing is showing nothing but showcasing misogyny, particularly a perverse desire to “get hold of” Kashmiri women.

Another thing that the scrapping of Article 35A has done, is to allow people from other parts of India to purchase land and build houses in Kashmir. This too has sparked numerous offensive posts on social media, especially Tiktok. One video shows a man claiming that now Gujaratis, Punjabis, Haryanvis and people from all over the country will go buy land in Kashmir, and kick those “traitor Kashmiris” back to Pakistan. “Dikha denge asli Hindustan ka power” (We’ll show them the real power of India).

Well, if one wants to make Kashmir a part of the country, one has to embrace the people living there, who are one of our own. Posts like these do nothing but divide the country further and worsen the situation.

And yes, while social media brims with such posts, Kashmiris have no way of answering back. They face a total blackout with no internet or phone connections – cut off from the rest of India — having absolutely no idea of what is going on there on the web. Which may be a good thing, after all.

‘Kashmiriyat is destroyed’

Those who migrate to Delhi for work are worried about their families back home

NISCHAI VATS

Kashmiri migrants in Delhi are not just worried about the well-being of their families back home but are disheartened, going so far as to say Kashmiriyat is under threat.

Assaduk, a shawl trader in Dilli Haat, last spoke to his family in Srinagar three days back. He claims that “Kashmir has become a jail. Article 370 was in the favour of Kashmiris and the way it has been taken away is mere gunda raj.”

“This is an attempt to destroy Kashmiriyat. Kashmir is there because of the people of Kashmir and if you (government) won’t listen to the people and impose something on us, it will backfire,” he says.

Sameer, another shawl trader from Srinagar, comes to Delhi to earn his living but now, he says, “I am planning to go back. I have lost all trust in the government.”

Narrating his ordeal, Sameer says, “Whenever it comes to safety, a Kashmiri resident’s life has no value.  If the government thinks that the decision was correct, then why was the curfew imposed, why are we not allowed to even talk to our families, why are the mainstream politicians under arrest?”

Sameer suggests that the government should have taken Kashmiris into confidence but “they suffer from trust deficit” and a referendum should have been done. He goes on to suggest a middle path. “If the government wants to develop Jammu and Kashmir, it should have charted a proper plan and at least reserved 80% jobs in the new companies or factories for the locals. Everyone would have supported the cause.”

Even journalists in the Valley are facing a tough situation. Muzamil Jameel, reporter with The Indian Express returned to Delhi after reporting from Srinagar and illustrated the difference in the lockdown saying, “This time they have brought in thousands of troops and a sheer number are present on the street. Presence of Jammu and Kashmir police has dropped with the surge of paramilitary forces, and never before such a communication blockade was seen.”

“I went to very few places in Srinagar. There was no way to know what was happening in the neighbourhood because there were checkpoints people were not allowed to cross,” said Muzamil.

Another Kashmiri journalist Haziq Qadri, who is based in New Delhi and reports for The Brut India, said that he hasn’t been able to connect with his family and is tense due to the prevailing uncertainty.

“To be honest, I don’t know anything what’s happening back home. I don’t if they have food, money and most importantly, I don’t know whether they are safe at all and hence there’s complete anxiety and depression for every Kashmiri in different parts of India,” said Haziq.

Haziq further alleges, “I talked to many people who are facing harassment. People have been discussing that since now the Article is abrogated, one can marry a Kashmiri girl.”

On being asked what the government should do, Haziq says, “They should at least restore communications. That’s the important thing because we don’t know anything about our family residing in Jammu & Kashmir.”

Kashmiri students residing in different parts of the country are also scared. They were hounded situation post Pulwama attack, where even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to intervene and say, “Our fight is for Kashmir, not against the people of Kashmir.

A student of Amity University, who did not wish to be named, said the abrogation of the special status could have been debated but the manner in which it has been carried out is “unprecedented and will have dire consequences.”

“I am from Srinagar and we all know that India is a democracy but this is complete dictatorship. I have not been able to contact my family since 3-4 days. Does the government of India know how am I surviving here in Delhi? My younger cousin, who also lives in Delhi got scared and called me up saying, ‘Let’s go home’ but I said what will we do there? Thereafter, he replied ‘At least we will die together’.

Criticising the government’s move, the student further opines, “One reason government gives for repealing the special status is development, but that could have been done even without abrogating Article 370. It’s all about the intention. Then the government said they wanted to end Article 370 in order to connect Jammu and Kashmir to mainstream India, but in reality, the state of J&K has always stood with India.”

“Everyone in Kashmir has his/her own house. Even if they don’t have enough to eat, at least they would sleep in their own homes but now the situation will change and people will be forced to sell off their properties and assets. In the name of development, poverty will shoot up as Kashmiris will definitely boycott the industries that government and private companies are planning to put up,” said the young student.

An alumnus of Amity University, belonging to Kashmir said, “It’s wrong to impose curfew and disconnect the people of Kashmir from everyone. It will only lead to an increase in tension and anxiety, they also have a right and they are also a part of a democratic system.”

Reminding everyone about the upcoming festival, she says, “Eid is on Monday then Independence Day is also approaching. Hence regular things like telephones, movement, school and colleges of the locals in Kashmir shouldn’t have been stopped. Daily wagers would have been severely hit at festival time.”

A J&K-based journalist Sagrika Kissu said that the clampdown has led to the floating of rumours in the Valley. “We really don’t know what is happening. Maybe after 10 days we might come to know that half of Kashmir has died.”

With deserted streets, an uncertain future and UT status, Jammu & Kashmir’s identity crisis looms large and Kashmiris in Delhi are clearly worried about the well-beings of their family members. Implications of the dilution of Article 370 and 35A are still have to sink in.