Way Forward

THE first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370 passed off without any incident. The Valley, however, woke up to severe restrictions despite the fact that the government had withdrawn its earlier order imposing the curfew in the region on the day. In a review on Tuesday, the administration had lifted the curfew but let Section 144 and Covid-19 restrictions remain in place. On ground though it made  little difference to the situation. The curfew-like restrictions remained in force on the ground. This brings up the question why did the government withdraw the curfew order when it didn’t mean it? Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet termed the order to lift the curfew a “hogwash” a result of the government’s preference not to “leave a paper trail” for its actions.

Be that as it may, the anniversary passed along the expected lines. Kashmir continued to be under a heavy  lockdown. One thing that once again stood out is the absence of any political activity. The politicians   were corralled in their homes. At the same time, no mainstream political party had announced any programme for the day.  National Conference leader and the former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had in a recent  interview said that they will observe the anniversary as a day of mourning in their homes. On the separatist side, former chairman of one of the two Hurriyat factions Syed Ali Shah Geelani had called for a complete strike on August 5.  Similarly, the anniversary was observed as   “Youm-i-Istehsal (Day of Exploitation)”  in Pakistan. Incidentally, on the occasion Pakistan issued a new map that showed J&K as its part.

If anything, all these developments create an unsettling sense of uncertainty about Kashmir and the region as whole. One can’t but feel deeply concerned about the direction of the situation. A year after the withdrawal of the Article 370, the people in Kashmir haven’t come to terms with the drastically altered situation in the region.  It has made regional situation also very fraught.  More so, with China through its incursions in Ladakh also asserting itself as a party to the longstanding conflict over Kashmir. India, Pakistan relations have already plumbed new depths and it seems unlikely that the neighbours could back to any kind of engagement anytime soon. This has only increased the odds of a bigger conflict between the neighbours. Hence the urgent need to lower the temperatures by taking some confidence building measures. And to start with New Delhi can start a political outreach to Kashmir and later on reach out to Pakistan for a resumption of long stalled dialogue.

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