Centre has no roadmap for Kashmir: CCG
Srinagar: Accusing the Centre of lacking a roadmap for Kashmir, the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) led by former Union Finance minister Yashwant Sinha Friday said none of the stated goals of the government articulated at the time of divesting Jammu and Kashmir of its special constitutional status has been accomplished in the past one year.
“It has been a year since August 05, 2019, when the Central government passed the J&K Reorganization Act abrogating Article 370, 35-A and dividing the state into two Union Territories. In early hours of that day, a complete lockdown was imposed and mainstream political leaders, businessmen, lawyers and thousands of others were arrested,” CCG said in a statement emailed to various media houses today.
It said “J&K continues to be in a social, economic, political and communication lockdown. None of the stated goals of the government – of bringing Kashmir closer to India, ending militancy, bringing development to the state – have been achieved.
“Instead the Kashmiris have lost any faith they had in the Indian political leadership and the judiciary. The Supreme Court has still not found time to take up the petitions challenging the legal and constitutional validity of the J&K Reorganization Act,” the statement jointly signed by Yashwant Sinha, former Finance and Foreign minister of India; Wajahat Habibullah, former Chairman of Minorities Commission; Air Vice-Marshall (Retd.) Kapil Kak; Bharat Bhushan, journalist; and social activist Sushobha Barve pointed out.
It said while many political, business leaders and lawyers have been released in the recent past, many continue to be in detention including the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The Centre’s action “internationalised the Kashmir issue to the detriment of India and the government was criticised for human rights violations and stoking Islamophobia. Security experts point out that the changes in the status of J&K also prompted Chinese incursions in Ladakh,” the statement said.
It said the CCG visited Kashmir twice since August 05 2019.
“During our visits in September and November 2019, we met a cross section of people – journalists, civil rights activists, a Kashmiri MPs, members of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce, lawyers, farmers and horticulturalists, sarpanchs and panchs. We found that the Centre’s actions had led to shock, trauma and humiliation amongst the local citizens. Their simmering anger at their helplessness still persists,” the statement said and added that “it is significant that the Kashmiris through their display of mature behaviour prevented public violence and chose mass civil disobedience instead to show unhappiness.”
The CCG said that the Kashmiris seem to believe that the Indian government wants to marginalise them. “This fear is expressed most vividly in the fear of demographic change by creating new settlements for outsiders,” CCG said, adding that the Union government “has used the pandemic-induced lockdown to implement domicile laws for the UT” which has not helped allay these fears.
The media which could have promoted debate on this issue is being harassed and hounded, CCG said.
The Internet ban in J&K which began on August 05 continues with only 2G connectivity being provided now. This has affected students, job-seekers, entrepreneurs, businesses and ordinary citizens alike and created havoc in banking, trade, business and healthcare, it said.
There are estimated to be 14 lakh children who were learning from online services. The 2G technology cannot sustain online learning, it pointed out adding that the students in the rural areas who do not have either laptops or smart mobile phones are also losing out on this count.
“Kashmir’s economy was also plunged into an abyss with the sudden and mass exodus in early August of tourists and the non-Kashmiri labour force. The tourism sector is in tatters. Its nascent IT sector has shut it down. The handicrafts sector is in dire straits as it could not book export orders for Christmas and New Year sales. The process of harvesting and marketing of fruits to the wholesale markets last year was impacted by militant threats, unavailability of outside labour and the killing of truck drivers and their assistants as well as non-Kashmiri orchard labour. Additionally, a freak snow storm last year uprooted thousands of apple trees, making the horticultural losses even more severe,” the CCG statement said.
It said the militancy has not gone down. “Many disaffected youth continue to join its ranks despite security forces having killed 136 militants this year. There are also reports of increased infiltration from across the border. The violence on the LoC has also increased exponentially. The situation is unlikely to take a positive turn in the months ahead. As of now, neither the Kashmiris nor the Central government seem to have a clear road map ahead,” the CCG said.
Elaborating on a slew of recommendations for the Central government, CCG said Mehbooba Mufti and all Kashmiris who were taken into preventive detention under Public Safety Act (PSA) must be set free forthwith, 4G Internet connectivity must be restored, the curbs on all peaceful political activities lifted, and a multi-level dialogue process started with all those who have been affected by the August 05 decision.
CCG also sought compensation for the Kashmiri farmers and businessmen for their economic losses “which were the direct result of unilateral action by the government” and said that the J&K businesses be brought under the similar bank loan deferment and other facilities as are available in the rest of the country.
CCG also urged the government to “not push through laws in the absence of a legislature, restore land rights of the local inhabitants to prevent demographic change, and stop the intimidation of media personnel” besides restoring the constitutional position of J&K as it was when an election government was in power in June 2018.