Kashmir: Schrödinger’s Cat


CRPF men stand guard at a closed market during lockdown in Srinagar. Photo: Abid Bhat

“We remain both alive and dead until we have been observed”

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment wherein a cat is placed with poison inside a sealed box. The cat is believed to be both alive and dead until it is observed. Similarly, Kashmir has been kept inside a box under seemingly volatile conditions.

The valley has been on a lockdown for over a month now. On the night of the 4th of August, mobile network services, landline and broadband services were suspended throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Even T.V cable services were suspended in some areas for a couple of days. Additional security forces were deployed on the streets and section 144 was imposed in many parts to ensure a complete lockdown. What followed was anticipation in some areas, but fear in the majority of the valley. August 5th marked the day when the government announced the abrogation of Article 370 and its subsequent provisions that applied to the state of J&K. It was decided that the regions of Jammu and that of Kashmir would form one Union Territory and the region of Ladakh would form another. Most people were unaware of this decision due to the communication blackout and it wasn’t until later that night that most people were made aware of it. All of this was followed by arbitrary arrests of political leaders and forced detention of civilians. In the valley, BSF personnel were deployed on the streets to curb movement. Shops were ordered to close and people had no information other than being ordered to stay at home.

For weeks, before losing what was left of our feeble democracy and independence, speculations were circulating social media about the impeding disaster. The first indication came in late July, when 10,000 additional paramilitary forces were deployed in Kashmir. The most damning indication of the severity of the situation was indicated by a circular issued by a Railway Protection Officer asking subordinates to stock ration. But, the Governor asked people not to worry and claimed that the rumours were false. On the 1st of August, almost 30,000 more paramilitary personnel were deployed, but officials denied these claims. On August 2nd, arms catchment discovered along the route of the Amarnath pilgrimage was used as a reason to send the Yatris back and the Amarnath Yatra was ended due to “security reasons”. A security advisory was issued by the J&K government ordering all tourists and Yatris to suspend their stay and leave the valley immediately. On August 3rd, major countries issued travel advisories discouraging travel to the state. The remaining Amarnath pilgrims were airlifted out of the state. And yet, people had no idea what was happening. Even after such developments, we were told by officials that there was nothing to worry about and all of this was precautionary. On the 4th of August, before the blackout, officials gave statements claiming everything was and would be fine, no restrictions would be imposed and that all services would remain intact. We were told not to pay heed to any rumours, but now it has been over a month since schools and colleges have opened; since we’ve had proper communication with the outside world. This was a pre-emptive, poorly planned solution for a problem the government themselves created.

We’ve been experimented with, locked in a box and kept in a volatile state. Anyone who tries to look inside and see what has happened is blamed for our condition rather than the ones who’ve put us in this predicament. A facade of normalcy has been put over this proverbial box by the officials. People in India, outside the State, have been programmed to believe we are fine and most mainstream news channels have been programmed to justify everything we have been going through. It is not “normal” to be kept in the dark about decisions that directly impact our lives. It is not democratic to strip people’s rights and disregard their voices and opinions while making such changes. The majority, whether you like it or not, were never for this decision and will never conform to it.

Protests have been held in several places and continue to take place in the valley. Of the little information that has come out, there have been 5 civilian casualties. There have also been reports of arbitrary arrests of civilians and torture in police custody. This decision has not only affected people in the State, but also Kashmiri’s in other parts of the country, who are being bullied, harassed and taunted. Recently, a Kashmiri student in Rajasthan was tied to a pole and beaten. Similar instances have happened in the past and will continue to happen.

Kashmir is either a bilateral issue or an internal matter. If it is bilateral then both countries need to come to some sort of an agreement. If Kashmir is an integral part and an internal matter, as is proclaimed by this government, then Pakistan is not to be blamed for this current oppressive state, India is.

Aheed Abrar

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