Srinagar: The first anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370 Wednesday will be a low-key affair in Jammu and Kashmir, senior government officials told The Print.
Officials said it is unlikely that the J&K administration will hold any major events to celebrate the Modi government’s 5 August 2019 decision to revoke its special status and divide the erstwhile state into two union territories. However, they added that district-level events will be held across the union territory to brief visiting central government officers about developmental works undertaken since last year.
“There has been no formal communication about holding official functions, so it will be a low-key affair tomorrow (5 August). Some IAS officers working in different ministries have been invited (to Kashmir),” said a senior government officer.
“The IAS officers will be sent to different district headquarters, where they will be briefed about developmental work undertaken by the union territory administration in the last one year,” the officer added.
Another senior government officer said the J&K government has been preparing promotional videos and presentations regarding infrastructure development, which will be shown to the visiting central government officers as well as a six-member media delegation from New Delhi that has been brought to Kashmir for a guided tour by the J&K administration.
Like the central government team, officers said, the media delegation will be divided and sent to different district headquarters where they will attend the briefings on development work.
The media delegation reached Kashmir on 3 August around 4 pm and was taken to a Srinagar hotel straightway. It is among many expected to visit Kashmir in the coming days.
The delegation’s four-day visit includes meetings with Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu, Chief Secretary B.V.R. Subramanyam, among others.
Beginning Tuesday, Kashmir has been placed under a curfew in anticipation of law-and-order problems Wednesday. The Modi government’s decision to strip J&K of its special status remains controversial and contested in Kashmir, where many see it as an assault on the terms of J&K’s accession to India.
Leaders from the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two biggest local political players, have termed 5 August a “black day”. Many leaders of the two parties, including PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, remain in detention a year since they were rounded up as part of mass political arrests that followed the Article 370 decision.
Eyes on Pakistan
One of the government officers quoted above said a lot of their plans “depend on what Pakistan plans to do on 5 August”.
Pakistan plans to observe 5 August as “Youm-e-Istehsal (day of exploitation)”, and is believed to be planning a massive media blitz in protest against the Modi government’s Article 370 move.
“Going by the preparation activities of Pakistan in the run-up to 5 August, the Government of India might be planning to carry out an event of sorts to react to the Pakistani government’s activities,” the officer added. “Perhaps a media briefing or a longish public address will be circulated on various social media platforms.”
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself is not planning anything major. The Kashmir spokesperson of the BJP, Altaf Thakur, said the party plans to unfurl the Indian flag at district offices of the party.
The J&K administration has imposed a strict curfew across Kashmir Valley citing intelligence inputs about the possibility of violent protests hitting the region. In an official order Monday, the J&K government stated that the Srinagar senior superintendent of police had reported a series of inputs that suggested “separatists and Pakistan-sponsored groups are planning to observe 5 August as black day”.
The administration said apprehensions of violent protests cannot be ruled out. “There are specific inputs about violent protests endangering public life and property,” said the government order declaring a two-day curfew in Srinagar.
As a result, Srinagar woke up Tuesday to massive restrictions on civilian movement. Roads were barricaded at several locations, and private vehicles were stopped from moving around, especially in “sensitive areas”.
Even media vehicles were not allowed to cross certain checkpoints in a throwback to the immediate aftermath of 5 August 2019. However, essential services were being allowed to move around after brief checks and questioning by police.
‘Our identity assaulted’
Leaders from the NC and the PDP have termed 5 August a black day, and questioned the government’s move to impose a curfew.
“Undoubtedly, 5 August is a black day. There is nothing to celebrate, not for the people of J&K as well as the rest of the country. This is a day when our territorial integrity, our identity was assaulted. What is there to celebrate? This is a day of mourning. We are being marketed,” said Anantnag MP Justice Hasnain Masoodi (Retd).
“Everybody has been shocked by the curfew… the way a clampdown is being imposed. This only supports our viewpoint from day one that there has been no achievement. The curfew is an admission of defeat that nothing has been achieved,” Masoodi added. He said the NC will examine how strict the curfew is and accordingly formulate a plan to mark 5 August as black day.
PDP leader Waheed Para said his party’s Srinagar unit plans to hold a small peaceful demonstration outside the press enclave in Srinagar. “Our 70 years of investment in mainstream politics have been deleted with a single move. We have the right to showcase our view peacefully,” Para added.
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