'State of abnormality in Kashmir becoming normal'

The fact-finding mission gained entry into Kashmir after they were mistaken for tourists. PTI file photo

A new fact-finding mission from Bengaluru, which recently visited Kashmir, said a pervading sense of abnormality is becoming the new norm in the isolated state.

A 161-page report, released to media on Thursday by 11-member team of advocates, civil liberties activists, medical personnel and researchers said the notion that the situation in Kashmir is normal as presented by the government is carefully orchestrated and does not reflect the ground realities.

“Images of traffic flow in Srinagar have been done by creating roadblocks to artificially create traffic jams, which are then recorded by drone cameras,” stated the survey, which was carried out over seven days and covered Srinagar and four rural districts.

The fact-finding mission gained entry into Kashmir after they were mistaken for tourists.

The document added that while phone landline services have been slowly restored, this concession has been meaningless as the majority of residents use cell phones.

Primary health clinics are non-operational, postal services have been hampered, legal services suspended, state transport buses remain stagnant at depots, press freedoms curbed with local journalists speaking of being surveilled by the state while the torture and abuses of civilians have reportedly escalated.

“Most importantly, the survey also found that a segment of public opinion that once spoke of an affinity with India has now vanished. It has been replaced by Azadi or death,” said Professor Ramdas Rao of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, a member of the mission.

Advocate Clifton D’Rozario, one of five Bengaluru-based individuals who also took part in the mission, added that condemnation of the abrogation of the article and the extreme militarisation is not limited to Muslim Kashmiris but also includes Kashmiri Pandits.

While the Modi administration has said it is lifting many of the restrictions imposed on August 5, the study found that schools and anganwadis remain closed and that economic life has come to a standstill.

Economic loss

The Kashmiri apple industry, with an annual turnover of Rs 10,000 crore per annum, has been hit by a loss of Rs 20 crore a day, the report said.

The IT industry has also suffered. A startup owner told the mission at the Rangreti Industrial Park, which was entirely dependent on internet services (which have been suspended), has seen 11,000 jobs axed.

D’Rozario clarified that the mission was lucky. “On the day of our exit from Kashmir, another fact-finding mission was turned away,” he said.

To offer perspective on the situation, D’Rozario added that the population of Kashmir is less than the population of Bengaluru, but is under the authority of eight lakh troops. “Imagine armed troops everywhere, with full authority to enter your home at will,” he said.

Recommendations of the team

Lift the lockdown in all its forms — barricades, communication, transport.

Reinstate all government services, restore all civil, political, social and economic rights.

Recognise that a dispute exists between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government.

Repeal The J&K Public Safety Act 1978 and the Armed Forces (J&K) Special Powers Act 1990.

Withdraw army and paramilitary forces from civilian areas.

Open a transparent unconditional dialogue with the people and their representatives to allow the people to define their own destinies.

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