Rahati Begum, an octogenarian lady from uptown Srinagar, is both angry and bitter. “Sorui maklovukh (everything is finished),” Begum said in Kashmiri with a sense of helplessness.
Accompanied by her grandson Rauf Ahmed she said, “The government of India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has destroyed the future of my children and grandchildren.” Begum’s angst is shared by many Kashmiris.
The streets in Srinagar, the summer capital of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has now officially been divided into two Union territories from Thursday (October 31), wore a deserted look.
The entire city was ghost-like with unprecedented military presence alongside many check posts and barricades while concertina and barbed wires are spread in sensitive areas like fastest growing vegetation.
The shutters of all shops and business establishments were down in protest and schools remained shut as an act of civil obedience. Moreover, there is no internet connectivity in the Valley since 4 August.
Jammu and Kashmir will never be the same again, say locals. Many are scared to reveal their identity or full names for the fear of reprisal. “I feel like I have lost everything, including my identity. As if I have been robbed of all my possession. It is intolerable. My identity as ethnic Kashmiri has been snatched without my consent,” said A Rauf, a political science postgraduate, from Budgam district.
All residents of erstwhile J&K state, will now officially lose their exclusive rights over the land (immovable property) which was earlier secured by virtue of Article 35A.
According to the previous arrangement, no Indian from outside J&K would be able to legally procure land in Kashmir. That scenario now stands changed.
The J&K legislature was empowered by Article 35A of the constitution to define who the permanent residents of the state were and then conferred upon them certain rights and privileges, which included the right to buy immovable property, and also the right to jobs and government scholarships. All this was given to residents here to provide a “sense of achievement” and “sense of security”. Not anymore.
With a change in the status quo after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on August 4, Kashmiris are fearful about their ethnic, political, religious and linguistic identities.
Many Kashmiris say that they face an “existential crisis” and a “demographic threat”. Tahir Ahmad, told the Federal that everything has changed for his family and future generations of Kashmiris. “I am worried about my children and grandchildren. Where would they go now? My parents left some property for me, but how will my children buy land and secure their future after the BJP’s political invasion. The Hindu nationalist party has a civilizational and ideological view on Kashmir. It aims to grab our land and leave people to fend for themselves,” says Ahmad.
Hafeez, an old woman from Srinagar, says, “no one is happy in Kashmir. No one.”
Even those who never identified themselves with the sentiment of ‘Azadi’ (independence) or the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) are feeling dejected.
Aziz Tariq, a techie who has not been able to work for almost three months now because of the ban on internet, has an interesting take on the subject. “I never supported the Hurriyat’s demand for Kashmir’s independence. I considered Articles 370 and 35A as my ‘Azadi’. In a Union territory I will be reduced to a second class citizen, nay, almost a subject of a colony,” says Tariq with moist eyes.
One of the 13 female academics who spent one night at Srinagar’s Central jail for protesting against the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A were too scared to come on record. One said that all thirteen Kashmiri women academics and civil society workers were forced to sign a bond that they won’t protest the abrogation of Articles and won’t speak to the press.
Requesting anonymity, she said that the abrogation of Articles was “a betrayal and an insult. Everything has been done unilaterally and arbitrarily after caging the local population, important politicians, independent thinkers, traders and civil society activists.”
What has changed in Kashmir?
On Thursday, Girish Chandra Murmu took oath as the first Lieutenant Governor of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Murmu was administered the oath of office and secrecy by J&K high court’s Chief Justice Gita Mittal at a function held at Srinagar’s Raj Bhavan.
A government statement said that J&K chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam read the warrant of appointment. Those present on the occasion included Dr. Nirmal Singh, Vijay Kumar, K K Sharma, Khurshid Ganai, K Skandan besides others.
The statement added that senior officials of civil administration, J&K Police, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indian Army, and family and friends of LG Murmu.
Meanwhile, in Ladakh, Krishna Mathur took oath of office and secrecy as the first LG of the UT of Ladakh.