While speaking in Kokrajhar in Assam a few days ago, prime minister Narendra Modi called on the people of Kashmir to enjoy life well; and according to him all facilities for that were set there. When he intervened in the budget discussion in parliament the other day also, his inherent message was that everything in Kashmir was fine.
What all these statements imply is that with the passage of six months after the deactivation of Article of 370 - which granted special status to Kashmir - and converting it to a union territory, all the problems of the region were solved. And with the purpose of ratifying this version of the central government and the sangh parivar, the Centre has been presenting in Kashmir from time to time ‘neutral observers’ from European Union and others from abroad. Such a delegation visited the Valley a few days ago too. orth noting is that it is to a region where journalists are barred entry that these visits of ‘neutrals’ have been taking place. At the same time, the rare news worth the name emerging from the Valley is that the facts on the ground are a far cry the claims and testimony of foreign diplomats.
For what the Modi regime made an intervention in Kashmir was already made clear by its champions. One of them was uttered by BJP leader and Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar: the benefit of the repeal of the provision of Article 370 was that from now on men from other states can marry the girls from Kashmir. Another came from home minister Amit Shah: the Centre can at its will acquire the land in Kashmir owned by the government or others, and through that make major development plans in the region. In other words, offering Kashmir up for sale is part of the agenda. Now six months into the intervention, the Modi government has started working on the agenda. It is as part of it that a special investors’ conclave was organized in New Delhi last month. The policy document released as a follow-up of that titled ‘Jammu and Kashmir Information Technology Policy 2020’ promises, as Amit Shah had declared, ‘free entry’ to investors including foreign investors.
In the first phase, a land with an area of over 6,000 acres spread over Jammu and Kashmir will be offered for investors. The government which is quite aware that investors cannot be lured that easily into this part of the country, is doling out more concessions under the IT policy. One of such concessions to be highlighted is the IT parks with an area of 5 lac square feet, providing uninterrupted internet and wifi facility. What is being initiated by opening 14 such zones wholly for investors is a new ‘development market’. All these moves corroborate those who had observed that the government’s revocation of the special status of Kashmir was motivated by an agenda not entirely political.
Even after offering so much of concessions, the fact is that the Centre has not been able to attract investors to the desired scale. The reason for that is quite simple: what sort of investment will be possible among a people denied all kinds of human rights for six months? Ever since 5 August, the state has been in a state of ‘e-curfew’. Internet access was denied to all including mediapersons. And only with a recent Supreme Court intervention did the Kashmiri people got back at least 2G internet connections – and that too partially. Reports say that the of internet connectivity was only at the rate of one connection per 9,500 subscribers - even that is not total restoration. This means that social media platforms and major media websites are still beyond the reach of Kashmiris. It is in such a land that the government is appearing with a promise of uninterrupted internet access.
The government’s move to acquire land is also viewed with grave concern by those in the Valley. The prospect of losing not only their land any moment, but their employment too, scares at them giving anxiety. Even as it is, the people there have incurred job losses at a large scale. Figures tell that about half a lac of people who were part of the silk carpet industry, have lost their jobs over six months. The same is the state of industries of tourism, handloom, IT and transport. In addition to these woes are the excesses committed by the military and other agencies under the pretext of security. Who will dare enter and invest in such a region with a totally insecure climate? Even the BJP leaders of Jammu are understood to be lamenting that they themselves were deceived. The government has not raised the Valley to a paradise, but pushed it into an abyss of uncertainty. Therefore, instead of putting Jammu-Kashmir up for sale in the ‘budget model’, the sole way of averting a worsening situation is to make a rethinking on an urgent basis.