The obvious facts that can be seen from daily media reporting appear far from reassuring.
Exactly six months ago, on August 5, 2019, with the stated purpose of fully integrating Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian mainstream, the Narendra Modi government ended the state’s autonomy and broke it up into two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh. Since then New Delhi hasn’t seen it fit to give Parliament a composite account of the situation in the two UTs, particularly J&K.
The obvious facts that can be seen from daily media reporting appear far from reassuring. All important leaders of mainstream parties of the former state, except the BJP, remain in jail. These include three former chief ministers. There is no autonomous political activity of any kind left.
The only political game being played are those by the Union home ministry which is working on never-before-tried dubious schemes to create a “new politics” for Kashmir. This consists of investing minor panchayat and block-level officials, elected through desperate processes lacking in popular legitimacy, with a higher level of sanction aimed at insinuating them into positions previously occupied by parties like the National Conference, PDP, Congress and a clutch of smaller parties.
A few former ministers from these parties, some discredited, are being duly incentivised — through below-the-counter manipulations — and are being groomed under the guidance of the Centre to take on leadership roles in the proposed “new politics” for Kashmir.
The entire exercise seems of questionable status on its integrity quotient, and smells of quisling politics, the kind played by Beijing in Tibet. The Centre may ban existing mainline parties, but it’s unclear what it will do with its jailed political leaders unless it decides to banish them from J&K.
What we see on the horizon can only fill us with foreboding, for the people of the Valley are totally excluded from any calculation in the so-called new politics of the J&K UT. In such an eventuality, India’s international isolation on the Kashmir question is only likely to grow. This is likely to give Pakistan and China greater room for manoeuvre against this country. Important political quarters in the United States and Europe, and some international organisations, have already started expressing unease over New Delhi’s handling of the Kashmir issue of late.
Removing Kashmir’s autonomy was officially explained as necessary to end terrorism in J&K, especially the Valley. The government withheld data in this respect in the past six months but news reports consistently speak of firings, bombings and IED blasts. Indeed, a decorated non-Muslim police officer has been discovered to be in the pay of terrorists, revealing the extent of the government’s failures. To what extent terrorism has been curbed in anyone's guess.
The communications situation has eased a little. The Internet can now be used for some essential services, but ordinary people don’t really have the Internet in any meaningful sense. There has been next to no development or economic activity since Kashmir was locked down.