The repealing of Article 370 on the basis of a presidential decree on Monday (August 5), coincidentally a day after lockdown of communication services, imposition of curfew, and house arrest of prominent Kashmiri leaders created a situation of tension and panic in the valley, has been received with much criticism and skepticism by media in Kashmir and across the Indian border.
Clamour amid shutdown
Prominent news websites in Jammu and Kashmir were down on Monday due to the internet shutdown in the state since Sunday night, but put up news on the security reinforcement in the state and how it poses a threat to the independent status of the state, before going offline. The last news report most of them carried was of the all-party meet convened by National Conference president Farooq Abdullah at his residence on Sunday. It was just when more troops being dispatched to the Valley. Apprehending a crisis in the offing, Abdullah on Sunday had warned the Centre not to tamper with J&K’s special status.
Publications like Kashmir Times, Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir reported on the tightening of security measures in the Valley and the rising panic among citizens who were seen queuing up in front of grocery stores and petrol stations fearing an impending calamity. The tone of anticipation was telling in news articles of other publications which predicted of turbulent times ahead if the Centre repeals Article 370.
The last article that The Kashmir Walla, had was an editorial titled ‘Think of Kashmiris, not just Kashmir’ which termed Article 370 as “a bridge between the state and the rest of the India”. Attributing the Centre’s constant “interference” into the affairs of the state to the alienation of Kashmiris from the rest of the India, the article said, “Now, this time if the assumptions of the people for Article 35 A in the current turmoil turns true, the repetitive mention of term Kashmiriyat in their speeches will vanish.”
Solidarity across border
The news was prominently covered by publications across in Pakistan, which carried live blogs, opinions, explainers and timelines of crises related to Kashmir. In an almost sympathetic tone towards Kashmiris, most Pakistan-based publications called the scrapping of the Act a “rushed presidential decree”. Soon after the Act was repealed, new portals carried Pakistan’s reaction to the development. While publications like Dawn, maintained an objective tone in their news reportage of Kashmir-related developments, others like Pakistan Today chose a tone of solidarity with Kashmiris.
A news item headlined ‘Pakistan stands by Kashmiris, warned India against misadventure’ reported about the Imran Khan government’s Monday’s statement that it will stand with the people of “Indian Occupied Kashmir” and would help them achieve their right to self-determination in line with the United Nations Security Council.
The article said a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee was convened to discuss issues that will arise from “tensions” in the Indian side of Kashmir.
“India having lost all moral authority in IOK and sensing erosion of its belligerent stance at international level, keeps resorting to illegal, undemocratic and inhuman measures that have resulted in huge loss of lives and property in the region. The recent build-up of forces and their brutal use against an unarmed population is adding fuel to fire,” the article quoted the statement issued by NSC as saying.
Pakistan-based news website, The Express Tribune, in an editorial dated August 3, titled ‘Changing IOK status will violate international law: experts’ predicted that the Indian government was mulling a trifurcation of the occupied part of Kashmir. It said although Indian experts claim that there are provisions in the Indian constitution to change the boundaries of any state sharing a border with Pakistan, legal experts in Pakistan were of the opinion that such a move will be considered illegal under international law and UN mandated obligations. Quoting international legal expert Ahmer Bilal Soofi, the article stated that “any changes on the ground shall violate the Fourth Geneva Convention”.
Through the eyes of Kashmiris
The Kashmir issue was splashed across the home page of Dawn, one of the leading publications in Pakistan. A special report compiled the reactions of Kashmiris on the shutdown of communications on Sunday. Through tweets, the report tried to establish the disgruntled state of Kashmiris over the imposition of restraints under Section 144 of CrPc, their panicked condition and the inability of many to communicate with their near and dear ones elsewhere. One tweet called the shutdown “unendurable” while another said they will “fight fascists till our last breath”.
The website also re-plugged an earlier article published in September, 2018 that anthologised articles on the ‘Kashmir issue’ – ranging from articles on “Kashmiri people rejecting India’s attempts to alter the demography of occupied Kashmir” (by separatist leader and JKLF chief Yasin Malik) to “the killing of Burhan Wani by Indian forces” (by Kashmiri writer and researcher Basharat Ali) to the impact of pellet guns used by Indian police on Kashmiri youths (a photo blog by Kashmir-based photographer Ahmer Khan). All the articles have not been necessarily written from a nationalistic viewpoint, especially one espoused by the BJP-led government, but reflect issues that are important to Kashmiris.
On lines of its Indian counterparts, Pakistan-based Geo TV too ran a live on the Kashmir crisis. In an editorial titled ‘Modi’s Kashmir Doctrine of Ethnic Cleansing’ in The Nation, Pakistani politician Rehman Malik, stated that India is following the Israeli model of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. He said Prime Minister Modi has already kicked it off by pitting local Hindus against Kashmiris and deploying more forces in the Valley.