The government’s decision last week to bring two of the already-detained former chief ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and a clutch of other prominent mainstream politicians of Kashmir Valley, under the mischief of the Public Safety Act, a draconian preventive detention measure, is a sure sign that New Delhi has run out of ideas on what to do with J&K. The PSA is to be used against those who are deemed a threat to the security of the state or to public order. Detained persons can be put away for up to two years, unless they are re-arrested.
The third former CM that the Centre moved against when it attacked the state’s constitutional status on August 5 last, the elderly and ailing Farooq Abdullah, a MP in the ninth decade of his life, has already spent four months as a PSA prisoner.
The only other living former CM of the former state, the senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been repeatedly turned back from Srinagar airport except on one occasion last October, when the Supreme Court permitted him under stringent conditions to visit the Valley for a very limited period.
None of the above suggests a state of “normality”, although this is the message that a group of Union ministers and some three dozen ruling party MPs, who were sent to Kashmir last month on an out and out propaganda mission, sought to convey to the public on their return.
It is amazing how thick-skinned the government can get. After placing more than 400 Kashmiri politicians behind bars, and refusing Indian MPs permission to visit the Valley to assess the situation, New Delhi took some right-wing and far right members of the European Parliament on a sight-seeing trip to Kashmir. Evidently, the world remained unimpressed.
Then it was the turn of a handful of New Delhi-based ambassadors. The EU group refused to take the bait. The US ambassador did go, but the state department subsequently urged India to take specific ameliorative steps. The communications lockdown has been maintained, effectively speaking, although under Supreme Court direction slow Internet speed has been permitted to let people access bank and hospital portals.
Meanwhile, the economy of Kashmir is a shambles. The communication and transportation blockage killed the apple and tourism trade, which sustain the Valley. The especially harsh winter this year with mounds of snow has put paid to even the most notional development activity. There is acute electricity shortage. The only activity which is alive in Kashmir is the Centre’s attempt to create a “new politics” for a “New Kashmir”.
The aim is to somehow create a cadre of obscure elements and convert them overnight into politicians under the leadership of a few relatively better known individuals, greedy for power and pelf, who have been tasked to guide this flock under New Delhi’s patronage.
For this venture to succeed, it is evidently necessary to pack away the top politicians of the pre-August 5 era. This is apparently best done by jailing them under the PSA. This law provides for no bail or legal representation. Meanwhile, terrorist incidents continue to be reported on a frequent basis....