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  Opinion   Edit  23 Nov 2019  Is repression in J&K the new ‘normal’?

Is repression in J&K the new ‘normal’?

Published : Nov 23, 2019, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Nov 23, 2019, 2:26 am IST

Read any newspaper in the Valley and you will see nothing but loud self-censorship.

Home Minister Amit Shah addressing the upper house. (Photo: Twitter | ANI)
 Home Minister Amit Shah addressing the upper house. (Photo: Twitter | ANI)

On Wednesday, the government in Parliament claimed that normalcy had returned to Kashmir. In the same breath, however, it claimed that internet services were still banned and would only be restored by depending on the security situation: “National security is above internet services,” Union home minister Amit Shah told the Rajya Sabha. Ironically, the minister’s economy with the truth came while one of Parliament’s seniormost members, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, remains imprisoned in his house under the Public Security Act and unable to attend Parliament to tell the rest of India, and the world, of the government’s draconian, undemocratic and unpopular “normalcy” in the Valley. To add insult to injury, Dr Farooq was dumped onto a parliamentary panel on defence with, among others, terror accused and Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur — even if the panel serves a ceremonial function rather than an auditing one.

At the same time, the Supreme Court has asked the government to address every question that has been raised on a clutch of petitions before it on the curbs imposed on the people of the Valley, now for the sixteenth week, from before the political status of J&K was changed on August 5 with the revocation of autonomy through the evisceration of Article 370, and with the bifurcation of the state into two Union territories. The apex court, which many have accused of becoming an “executive court” given its track record in the recent past of generally supporting executive decisions, whether they be on the title dispute in Ayodhya or matters of privacy and electronic intrusion in citizens’ lives, was not at all indulgent of the petitioners' contention that “sedation” of the Valley’s residents to “calm down” the situation was “overkill”. The court dismissed as “hyperbolic” all claims that there had been a “clampdown” on the Valley, when it is just a semantic difference: the initial lockdown on the Valley eventually became a shutdown by Kashmiris as an expression of their opposition to New Delhi's unilateral alteration of their political being. In fact, the government told the court that newspapers in the Valley (save one) have been regularly publishing, as an indication of normalcy; but that is only superficially correct. Read any newspaper in the Valley and you will see nothing but loud self-censorship.

At another point in the hearing, the bench referred to cross-border terrorism, echoing the home minister’s stand in Parliament that the internet ban would continue keeping in view Pakistan’s “activities” in the Valley. It is nothing but sophistry to keep clubbing Kashmiri political grievance with Pakistan-supported cross-border terrorism, but then one can hardly expect anything different from a party whose international agenda has been to club terrorism together with Islam. It is sinister to rob the Kashmiri of agency and then justify it as a need to prevent cross-border terrorism. It is Kafkaesque to then characterise Kashmiri non-cooperation as “normalcy” because from any yardstick; it is anything but normal. Or perhaps it is the new normal.

Tags: amit shah, indian parliament