Before the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated by a vote in Parliament on August 5, 2019, the Kashmir Valley saw a massive build-up of troops, and the administration asked non-locals, including Amarnath pilgrims, tourists, and students, to leave. As suspense mounted and international media glare intensified, J&K’s separatist leaders as well as mainstream politicians were taken into custody on the midnight of August 4. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A ended the exclusivity in jobs and property rights to local people in J&K, hitherto known as “State subjects”. J&K was also bifurcated into two Union Territories of J&K and of Ladakh.
The Centre’s move, for long a project of the BJP and the RSS, found massive public approval across India, with visuals of people distributing sweets and fireworks blanketing TV screens, even as the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley was placed under a strict curfew and all forms of communications banned. The absolute internet ban would continue for 213 days, the longest anywhere in the world.
The government justified the move by claiming that J&K’s integration with India would attract big businesses to the Valley, and also bring about a seismic shift in how the concerns of its most vulnerable sections were addressed. The J&K government, led by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha, has since come up with the J&K Industrial Policy 2021-2030 to create an enabling environment for investors, generate employment opportunities, and develop the backward regions. It is committed to holding the first ever global investors’ summit in the Union Territory this year.
The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, an amalgam of five regional parties under the aegis of former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, is currently involved in a judicial struggle for restoration of the pre-August 5, 2019 status of J&K, while alleging that there is increased human rights violations in and repressive bureaucratic control. The Alliance has also accused the Centre of trying to realign the demographics by relaxing requirements for becoming a domicile of J&K. The government also set up a delimitation panel whose orders came into effect on May 20 this year, redrawing electoral boundaries to create Hindu-majority constituencies.
This along with the continued presence of armed forces have resulted in targeted attacks on non-local people and on the Valley’s small Pandit community.