Jammu & Kashmir: Return statehood to restore confidence, says opposition leader
By Ahmad Adil
NEW DELHI (AA): A senior opposition leader in India has said that contrary to the claims of progress, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has retreated in the past two years since the revocation of its special status.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, on the eve of the second anniversary of the annexation of Kashmir, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, the president of the opposition Congress party in Jammu and Kashmir, said none of the promises made two years ago have been realized.
He also demanded the immediate return of statehood to the region to restore confidence.
“They were talking about development, creating a normal atmosphere, and generating employment. None of the three things are there on the ground. Whatever was there, it is on the reverse ground. They have only slogans, but if you see them on the ground, there is nothing visible,” said Mir.
On Aug. 5, 2019, India annulled the key provisions of Article 370 and abrogated Article 35 (A) of its constitution, which had guaranteed limited autonomy and protection to the local citizenship law. The state was also divided into two centrally administered territories.
“The situation in Kashmir has gone 25 years backward. I don’t think [Kashmir] has moved forward in the last two years, but in all respects, it has gone backward,” said the Congress leader, who recently participated in an all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the inauguration of projects done over the past two years are mostly those, conceived during the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that ruled India from 2004-2014.
“Be it college, tunnels, or roads, these are all projects of the previous government. Any administration must carry forward such initiatives, but there is no addition in these two years,” he said.
Kashmir becoming a political tool
Mir also blamed the Indian government for using Kashmir in the electoral politics in the rest of the country.
“Jammu and Kashmir are being made the epicenter so that in the rest of the country, vote banks are created,” he said.
Referring to a circular issued by the government making verification norms tougher for those applying for passports and government jobs, Mir said these orders are issued to give an impression in the rest of the country that they are dealing with an iron hand.
“When militancy was not there, that time as well, there used to be such verification. If anyone had an adverse report, he would have been dealt with accordingly. They are now selling old wine in new bottles…to give an impression in the country that they are doing all these new things,” he said.
On a question about the government’s promise of bringing private investment, Mir said it proved to be another promise.
“Though in the past as well, we have had big hoteliers to Jammu and Kashmir. The government said we will bring investment here, but where is it? It’s been two years, but nobody has come,” he said.
According to Mir, militant activities are still going on in the region and there has been no major change on the ground.
“Every year, the police have been stating that 200 militants are present in Kashmir. In the last two years as well, we have seen statements from top police officers like all-out operations [against militants], etc., despite that they again come up with a statement that some 180-190 militants are still active during the last two years,” he said.
Mir said that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has internationalized the issue of Kashmir, which used to be a bilateral or internal issue.
He demanded immediate restoration of statehood and popular government in the region.
“Our state was downgraded and bifurcated, undemocratically and unconditionally. If they have any respect and care for the people of this region, the need is that our statehood should be restored and give people a popular government … right now in the bureaucratic setup, people are suffering because no one is there to listen to their grievances,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, 1971, and a limited war in 1999 – three of them over Kashmir.
In the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.
[Photo: Members of British Kashmiri community protest outside Indian High Commission on the second anniversary of changes to the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by Narendra Modi’s government in London, United Kingdom on August 05, 2021. Photographer: Wiktor Szymanowicz/AA]
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