Rejecting reports of clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, a group of intellectuals and academicians in their report on the state said things were normal in the three regions of the state but suggested confidence-building measures to ensure equitable development of all regions and people.
"Overall Kashmir is going through intense churning. Kashmiris across the board seek healing from a corrupt, oppressive, social and political culture that has emerged in Kashmir for the past 70 years and more intensely in the last 30 years," said the report submitted by the group to Union Minister Jitendra Singh.
It said the team could feel the freedom in the air.
"People of Jammu region have welcomed the historic decision of the Indian Parliament on 5th and 6th August 2019 for setting aside of Articles 370, 35-A (of the Constitution) and all related provisions. Particularly the victims of Article 35-A are jubilant as they see a normal life for themselves henceforth. They feel that they have become like any other citizen of the state and the country. For these sections of the society, independence was achieved on 5th August 2019," the report said.
However, it would be the responsibility of the state and the Centre to provide a healing touch to the already wronged sections of society, it said.
"With the one nation, one Constitution a reality, it is hoped that the dominance of Kashmir hegemony in J&K discourse will end and Jammu too will get its due share," said the report.
It said people in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh want the government of India to make the union territories model work in Kashmir.
"They look towards the Centre to reach out to them with real changes. We recommend that the process of healing between the government of India and the Kashmiris be facilitated. Any group or set of persons nationally or internationally trying to derail this process should not be allowed to betray the Kashmiris," said the "Report from Ground Zero: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh after setting aside Articles 370 and 35A".
Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, after meeting with the group said the decision to remove Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution from Jammu and Kashmir in August this year was a historic decision.
He said that opposite to the common perception, the state was most exploited under the pretext of Article 370.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been split into two union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. These union territories will come into effect from October 31.
"The changes which are going to come after October 31, would be revolutionary. It cannot be imagined now. People in the state have lived in deprivation. They even don't know what all they have missed or been deprived of. They will feel what all they have been deprived of when they start getting all facilities and benefits of central government-run welfare schemes," said Singh, who is also Lok Sabha member from Udhampur constituency near Jammu.
He said that contrary to the misinformation being spread by certain sections about the clampdown situation in J&K, this year has been the most peaceful in the last 20-25 years.
Singh said that important festivals like Eid and Independence Day have been celebrated in a peaceful manner without any instance of violence after many years.
On the militancy issue, the minister said that terrorism and militancy are in the last phase in Jammu and Kashmir.
He said that vested interests of some people have led to these misleading perceptions about the threat to identity of people from Jammu & Kashmir.
Singh questioned as to whether Article 370 is required to save the identity of people in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal?
He said that after October 31, many women-welfare related provisions will also be implemented.
Singh said central laws including those to check dowry and child marriages were not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir due to Article 370 by previous governments.
"These laws will now be implemented in the state," the minister said.
Singh said that there are now no barriers in the industrial development of J&K.
He said that development in J&K will also curb the "youth exodus" from the state as there will be ample opportunities available to them, from which they were deprived earlier.
The minister said that the development model of the Northeast can be replicated in J&K.
He said that food processing parks can be opened for apples, strawberry and other fruits on the lines of citrus fruit park in the Northeast.
The minister said that other products of J&K such as Pashmina also have huge commercial potential which needs to be tapped for the economic wellbeing of people.
Founded in 2015, the Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA) is a group of professional women and entrepreneurs, mediapersons and academicians committed to social justice and nation-building.
The group met sarpanches in Kashmir, Kashmiri Hindus, members of Sikh community, three separatists (two of them refused to be identified), police personnel and random people on streets.
Members of the team include Monika Arora, advocate, Supreme Court; Sonali Chitalkar, Assistant Professor, Miranda House (Delhi University); Ritu Mathur, Assistant Professor, Zakir Husain College (Delhi University); and Poonam Bachheti, educationist.