New Delhi: Common Kashmiris “have no sympathy” for local leaders like the Abdullahs, the Muftis, and the Mirwaiz, who remain in detention over two months since the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A. This is the conclusion drawn by a group of women’s rights activists, which conducted a “fact-finding” mission in Kashmir and submitted its findings in a report to the central government Wednesday.
The activists, who identify themselves as Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA), say the people of Kashmir want the central government to “punish” these political figures.
The Abdullahs are Kashmir’s oldest political dynasty, and has given Jammu and Kashmir three former chief ministers — Sheikh Abdullah, his son Farooq, and grandson Omar. The Mufti dynasty, meanwhile, has contributed two chief ministers — the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba, the first woman to lead the state. The Mirwaiz, moderate separatist Umar Farooq, is a prominent political and religious leader in the Valley.
“The shikara-wallas we spoke to were also very bitter towards mainstream political leaders like Farooq Abdullah and the Muftis. They resent the corruption that these parties have indulged in at the cost of the common man,” the GIA committee report, accessed by ThePrint, stated.
“They feel that now that these leaders have been imprisoned, they must not be allowed to go scot-free; they must be made to pay for their corrupt practices,” the report added. “The general feeling is that the leaders of all these mainstream political parties… engineered the conflict and sent their own families abroad while the man on the street suffered.”
According to the group, while there was a sense of resentment among Kashmiris that they hadn’t been consulted about the decision to scrap the state’s special status, “there is no sympathy for jailed Kashmiri leaders and everyone we spoke to wants to see the government take them to court and convict them for corruption”.
“There is no genocide in Kashmir and the only genocide we observed was that of Kashmiri Hindus in 1990. At present, Kashmiris are not under any kind of lockdown or genocide,” Supreme Court advocate Monika Arora, a member of the GIA, said.
“There was dense traffic in many parts of Kashmir, shops were also open and there was no shutdown in many parts,” the report added, stating that media persons (and visitors) were found travelling freely in Kashmir.
“No one stopped us during our extensive travel through Kashmir,” the report said.
While mobile connectivity and lack of internet are an issue in Kashmir, a large section of the population has credited this step with saving lives in the Valley, the report said.
It, however, pointed to “brutalisation of people by the militants still present in urban and rural areas”. “They are not allowing people to resume daily lives. These are the overground supporters of underground militants (OSUT),” it said.
Suggestions for the govt
The fact-finding committee, which visited Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, also listed some suggestions for the government on the road ahead for the region, which will be bifurcated into two union territories come 31 October.
For example, it said Kashmiri Pandits — driven out of the Valley by militants between 1989 and 1990 — could be brought back through a twin-city model, for instance, by establishing a ‘New Srinagar’.
The group said the government must not engage with the separatists or “their support group in New Delhi”.
The report added that while Jammu residents welcomed the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A, they were concerned about possible loss of land and jobs to outsiders, who they fear will now flood the state. These concerns “should be allayed”, the panel stated.
It said the Shia community in Kashmir has demanded a special advisory board, reservation in employment, and a Shia waqf board.
Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh, who received the report from the group, said the government will examine the suggestions and act on them.
“A fake narrative is being peddled by a section of the media and civil society, but contrary to that, the situation is much better in Kashmir. The fact-finding report that has been submitted is the true narrative, which shows how people have welcomed the decision of PM Modi to scrap Article 370 and 35A,” Singh said.
The minister added that there had been few incidents of violence, suggesting that it was probably linked to the fact that a number of “people who usually incite people are detained, including former CMs and MPs”.