Who is happy here? ask Kashmiris

Kashmiri women walk past Indian policemen standing guard in a street in Srinagar October 31, 2019. (REUTERS)

A sense of despondency pervades the valley after Jammu and Kashmir was downsized to a Union territory following abrogation of Article 370 nearly three months ago, as most people feel the Centre's move is an "assault" on their identity.

The transition from the state into two Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on Thursday was met with a complete shutdown in the the valley as shops and other business establishments were shut, and public transport were off the roads.

Many in Kashmir are miffed with the Centre's decision, saying it was against the interests of the people of the valley.

"This is a decision against our interests. They have robbed us of our special status and our identity," Muzammil Mohammad, a resident of the civil lines area of Srinagar, said.

Mohammad said the Centre's assertion that people here are happy with the decision was a "blatant lie".

"Who is happy here? Do you see anyone happy here except for the leaders and workers of the BJP?" he asked. "People of Kashmir did not want this. We are sad that the government has done it and whatever they are saying is a blatant lie."

Firdous Ahmad, a shopkeeper who has been partially opening his shop for a few hours because of the shutdown, said the Centre's move was a "betrayal" with the people of Kashmir.

"The government has sent Kashmir into an unimaginable chaos," he said.

According to Ahmad, people are observing the shutdown themselves for the past three months and it is not due to any strike called by separatists.

"Had the government not done this, the situation would not have been like it is. Who is to blame for this?" the shopkeeper asked.

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has said the valley had suffered losses to the tune of over Rs 10,000 crore due to the three-month-long shutdown.

A businessman in the Boulevard area of the city who chose not be identified said it would be difficult for the valley to recover the losses.

"Everything was going very well. The tourists were coming, the fruit season was on, new business were coming up and many start-ups were also taking shape," he said. "But now, everything has come to a grinding halt."

The businessman pointed out that this was for the first time a state had been downgraded into a Union territory. "It was the other way round till now and this is very sad."

Parveena Akhtar, a homemaker, also blamed the Centre for the prevalent situation in the valley.

"This time, there is no call for strike, so they cannot blame us for the prevalent situation," Akhtar said. "This situation is not good and people, especially the youth, are very angry. We do not know what is going to happen tomorrow."

Another local, Umer Zargar, described the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370 as "illegal, immoral and unconstitutional."

"India cannot abrogate Article 370. This territory is disputed, this issue is in the United Nations and there are various resolutions on it," he said.

Zargar, however, underlined that making the state a Union territory or removing Article 370 hardly mattered to the people of the valley as the decision cannot change "the basic disputed nature of Kashmir".

"The dispute remains and India cannot suppress the truth. However, this seems to be a sinister design for engineering a demographic change in the valley," he said.

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