A Normal Kashmir?


CENTRE has withdrawn around 10,000 paramilitary forces personnel from J&K a year after they were deployed in the former state in August last in the run up to the revocation of Article 370. The decision has been taken after the Union Home Ministry reviewed the deployment of the Central Armed Police Forces in the union territory. Last year, around 38000 paramilitary personnel had been sent to the Valley to curb the then anticipated outbreak of the protests.

But a large force still remains in the Valley. The CRPF  has a strength of about 60 battalions with each battalion having 1,000 personnel  in the  Valley alone. Similarly, there are other units of paramilitary troops also here. It can be hoped that in future more withdrawals may take place.

In a sense, withdrawal of the forces was long overdue. Over the past year, Kashmir has remained largely calm. Other than the intermittent protests that followed the withdrawal of Article 370 for a short duration, the Valley has been  peaceful, albeit uneasily so. As a result, there was no need for more paramilitary personnel in the Valley.

At the same time, withdrawal of the paramilitary forces underlines a certain contradiction in the government’s approach towards the situation in the union territory. While, on one hand, the situation is peaceful enough for pulling out the excess security personnel, it is not conducive enough for the restoration of 4G – albeit, the administration has recently allowed the internet in two districts of the former state – one each in Jammu and the Valley.

Truth is that the Valley continues to be under siege, more of it now invisible to the eye. A year on from the repeal of Article 370,  there’s little that’s normal about Kashmir: the economy has been completely shattered with thousands of people having lost their jobs. The Covid-19 lockdown has come as a double whammy, creating a situation of a lockdown within a lockdown.

Similarly, all kind of a normal political activity has come to a halt. The political parties across the mainstream-separatist divide can’t hold any activity. This has  time and again been demonstrated when government has prevented the parties from convening a meeting, let alone hold a rally. Also, many leaders, including the PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, continue to be under detention or house arrest. And there’s little hope that they will be released anytime soon. So, in a sense, the larger siege remains in place and it can only be deemed to have been lifted once  the economy is back on rails and the local politics is back in action. Also, the one big indicator of this normalcy will be the complete restoration of 4G internet.

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