Srinagar: If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Thursday speech was to allay fears over his government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, it appears to have done little to achieve that.
Although much of the volatile belts of Srinagar remained calm during Friday prayers, the first since the Centre enforced a shutdown in Kashmir, residents in the Valley and Jammu have refused to buy into the Prime Minister’s promises of all-round development, early and transparent elections and an end to terrorism.
Instead, many say the decision to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A will render the “ecologically-sensitive” province “vulnerable” to exploitation due to infrastructure-related activities.
“With revoking of the Article, floodgates will be opened for the corporate sector to invest in big projects like hotels, flyovers and other big buildings,” said a Kashmiri journalist, who did not wish to be identified. “It will harm our pristine environment, which had so far been left largely unharmed due to the restrictions that come under the Article.”
He cited the example of Uttarakhand to support his claim, saying the country saw how houses and hotels built close to rivers damaged the environment in the state. “We do not want that to happen in our homeland,” he said.
Ajaz Ahmed, a Delhi-based physiotherapist who is in his 30s, alleged, “They (the government) only want the land of Kashmir, they do not want to win the hearts of Kashmiris.
“If they wanted to win our trust, they should have taken us into confidence, discussed the pros and cons of the exercise and made us feel secure,” he added. “Our families are living under siege there. If an emergency arises, our families won’t even have access to an ambulance.”
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Aejaz Ahmad Rather, Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union general secretary said, “They are saying that it has been done with an agenda to bring development. But according to figures, Gujarat is lacking in development as opposed to Jammu and Kashmir in many indices… What the government has done is a grave mistake, and they will regret it later. They have taken away our identity.”
‘They have killed our history’
Few in the Valley also believe that the Prime Minister’s assertion, that Jammu and Kashmir will not remain a union territory for long, will come to fruition.
“They have not killed article 370 or our statehood. They have killed our history,” said a pharmacist who did not want to be named.
Majeed Wani, who runs a hotel, said business had picked up in the last two months before the government’s decision. “Modi talks of developing the state, then why implement a move when things had begun to normalise?” he said. “Truth is there are people who want to keep the state burning.”
A bank employee who wished not to be named said, “How can a decision that is supposed to benefit the state require imprisoning people in it? Instead of giving sermons he (Modi) should have apologised first.”
No love for speech in Jammu too
Many Jammu residents were also not enthused by Modi’s speech, in which he spoke about the benefits that will accrue to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
“The Centre should have taken the people or at least the mainstream politicians into confidence,” Shah Rukh Ali, 25, an MBA graduate, told PTI over the phone from Jammu.
“How can you put the J&K leaders under house arrest and, decide on the fate of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without asking the local people. Is that a democracy?” he asked, adding, this complete communication cut off in the Valley needs to end.
A Delhi-based university student from Jammu, said she thought the revoking of the article and its repercussions are debatable, but the way in which it was scrapped is “extremely undemocratic”.
“Besides, the environmental impact on the state of such a move would be catastrophic,” she alleged. “Moreover, if this is seen as a gateway to development, it would only be beneficial to the capital-owning bourgeoisie, who can buy land and open up their businesses, and would not really benefit the common masses. The gap between the rich and the poor would increase.”
(With PTI inputs)
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