ver the past year, the headlines in Kashmir’s news media have focused almost exclusively on an internet ban, and then the missing 4G connectivity.
The other stuff that has been happening in Kashmir for the narrative-setters in the past 12 months has been a way out of their comfort zone to report. In reality, for those who have made their careers burn Jammu and Kashmir a nightmare is unfolding.
With the move of a patient miraculously cured of a chronic illness, the Union Territory moves towards normal life. This is despite the unnecessary limits on internet bandwidth given the extreme threat of violence from across the border.
Last year, on 5 August, the scrapping of Article 370, took Pakistan totally off guard. It felt embarrassed but after India’s volatile and fierce military responses to the attacks on Uri and Pulwama, a clear line of revenge was effectively shut down.
So Pakistan woke up late to initiate an international diplomatic offensive that failed even with China’s big brother and Arab nations refusing to join in.
It then stoked and allegedly supported demonstrations against the Anti-Citizen Amendment Act. The headlines for ‘Kashmir under internet blackout’ kept arriving in the news media globally and nationally. Indian agencies and powers were unable to afford to put their guard down. A seething Pakistan remains a top terror exporter, and the use of the internet to organize violent crowds or orchestrate terrorist attacks is becoming increasingly widespread worldwide.
Since 2011, Jan Rydzak, a Stanford University research scholar, has recorded 400 to 450 cases of internet blackouts around the work from Russia to South Korea, from Venezuela to Sri Lanka.
But the media chose to neglect a much deeper shift afoot in Jammu and Kashmir over the past 366 days in this focus on covering the throttling of bandwidth.
Justice for Kashmir’s faceless
In addition to restoring the right of many Kashmiri women and children to land, the scrapping of Article 370 and 35A in one stroke ended discrimination against oppressed groups such as the Valmikis, Gorkhas, Dalits and LGBTQIA. In the territories of the Union, 170 more Central Laws are now available.
More than 20,000 refugees from western Pakistan have rights of domicile, citizenship, and Rs 5.5 lakh per family. With access to all rights and privileges, nearly 10,000 safai karmacharis or sanitation workers are now legal domiciles.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir has set in motion a remarkable recruitment campaign. Initially it fills 10,000 positions, with a further 25,000 to follow. Which include the positions as junior positions of physicians, veterinarians, panchayat account assistants. The recruiting process has been revamped to give widows priority, applicants without any government family member and casual staff a five-year age relaxation.
The Union Territory administration has agreed to offer quotas (four percent) and economically weaker parts (10 percent) to Pahari-speaking citizens. Reservations, so far only accessible for people living on the Line of Control in villages, have been expanded to those living on the international border, helping almost 70,000 families.
More than three lakh Jammu and Kashmir government employees are now providing benefits for Central Government workers under the 7th Central Pay Commission, such as leave travel, children’s education allowance and hostel subsidy. Hardship grants and extra rationing have been provided to the state police, instrumental in combating terror and separatism.
A big push for projects
At 359 meters from bed level, the world’s highest railway bridge is being constructed over the Chenab River (the Eiffel Tower is 324 meters tall).
By December 2022, train connections will be made to places in Kashmir. The Udhmapur-Katra section (25 km), Banihal-Quazigund section (18 km), and Quazigund-Baramulla section (118 km) have already been commissioned.
Work has begun on Shahpur-Kandi, a five-decade hanging electricity and irrigation scheme. The Ujh project was quick-tracked. And the subway rail is bound for Srinagar and Jammu.
The power sector has already been hit by reforms. The department was divided into five autonomous entities for better response to customers and secure revenues.
After reforming the land registration process, Jammu and Kashmir have recovered Rs 100 crore from stamp duty and the registration fee.
Local public bodies are shifting too. Municipal commissions will now sanction Rs five crore projects. For example, transparent e-Tenders have been made compulsory.
War on corruption and terror
Corruption has become one of the deadliest plagues eating away at the former state. The Jammu and Kashmir administration have repealed the Roshni Scheme in the past year or so, described as India’s largest land scam and also a prolific ploy to change Jammu and Ladakh’s demographics. It prevented former chief ministers from making gratuitous perks.
In the territories of the Union all provisions of the Central RTI Act 2005 were implemented.The Office of Anti-Corruption was put under the direct oversight of the National Vigilance Committee. The wing of police crime now has teeth to deal with economic and cyber crime offences.
Last but not least, since 5 August last year, terror rates have decreased.
A report from the home ministry shows that terror-related activities in Kashmir have dropped by about 36% since Article 370 junking. The Valley reported 188 terror incidents in 2019, compared to 120 in 2020, from 1 January to 15 July. More terrorists have also been killed: the number has gone from 126 to 136. Attacks on grenades were down from 51 to 21. There were 532 stone pelting incidents in 2018, 389 in 2019 and 102 in 2020.
So far, 110 local terrorists have been killed by the armed forces in 2020 including top ones such as Hizbul leader Riyaz Naikoo, Lashkar’s Haider, Jaish’s Kari Yasir and Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s Burhan Koka.
Interestingly, the old separatism hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani distanced himself from the conference on Hurriyat.
This is a gist. There’s a lot more on the Union Territory. However, sunshine dancing on the chinar does not make news. The hyenas just come sniffing for blood.