In Depth

‘As per sources reports, leaked circulars’: The new panic buttons in Kashmir

A slew of circulars in the backdrop of the additional deployment has become a new alarm in the valley. Even as police have termed the ‘leaked’ official communiqué as ‘fake’ and warned action against ‘miscreants’, the ‘sources said’ media reports emanating from New Delhi have created another wave of rumour-induced hysteria in Kashmir.

Ever since it staged a massive comeback in state politics in 1996, Kashmir’s grand old party—National Conference’s rank and file “haven’t witnessed” such a degree of indifference from New Delhi, as some of them are noticing now.

Despite being gung-ho about their electoral prospects in an elusive Assembly election in the state, the backlash during protracted President’s Rule is only leaving the pan-JK cadre-based party clueless.

While coming events in the valley are a glaring cause of concern, most of them are equally distressed over the assertion of their leader — the former chief minister who had his debut in an old NDA school, headed by the poet-prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Omar Abdullah’s body language clearly reflects how the new dispensation in Delhi isn’t ready to engage with Kashmiri traditionalists — most of whom are repeatedly being dismissed as corrupt by Governor Satya Pal Malik.

The recent tiff between Omar and Malik—who even spoke about some high-profile forthcoming arrests in alleged graft cases in the valley—has further exposed the sticky ground for New Delhi’s traditional counterparts from the valley.

The talk of possible arrest also resonated during Peoples Democratic Party’s 20th Foundation Day on a shower-soaked Sunday in Srinagar.

“Don’t be surprised, if I’ll be arrested tomorrow for the cause we are fighting for,” Mehbooba Mufti, PDP chief and former BJP ally, told her party supporters inside the Sher-e-Kashmir Park.

Kashmir’s two traditional unionist parties—NC and PDP—are sounding politically pessimist at a time when reports and circulars are once again hinting at the sliding ground situation in the valley.

“Not that any of us are surprised over these reports and circulars, but the way it’s happening shows Government of India’s aggression in the valley,” says one of a few remaining well-known faces in the fragmented PDP camp. “Our party chief has already warned Delhi that in case of any political misadventure—say abrogation of Article 35-A—JK state’s accession with the union of the India will be rendered null and void.”

Fresh political storm erupted after New Delhi on Thursday ordered deployment of an additional 100 companies of CAPFs “in order to strengthen the CI (counter-insurgency) grid as well as for maintaining the law and order situation” in Jammu and Kashmir. Augmented military footfall in the valley came on the close heels of NSA Ajit Doval’s Kashmir visit.

The extra reinforcement was followed by a slew of security circulars, which police have since then termed as ‘fake’ and warned action against ‘miscreants’ — who’re posting them on social media.

But the ‘leaked’ communiqué on social media has already created hysteria in the valley, as they directed people to store rations and petrol, ordered police stations to keep a satellite phone and bulldozer, besides seeking details about mosque imams and management. The armed forces were also asked to stay vigilant about mobs “coming towards railway lines”.

These circulars have sounded the war bugle — akin to early 2019 war hysteria, trailing the Pulwama suicide attack which brought the two nuke-armoured neighbours to the brink.

“If these circulars are indeed fake, as police now wants us to believe, then what took them two days to clear air about them,” asked Shabir Kirmani, a banker who’s among countless Kashmiris, closely monitoring the situation in the valley. “This delayed response and Raj Bhavan’s conspiratorial silence have already derailed the mental calm in the valley. Should we, at least, ask: what’s New Delhi upto in Kashmir now?”

On Monday, advisor to Governor, Vijay Kumar also tried to clear some air about the growing panic in the valley—stating that the deployment is a routine “calibrated” process.

Kumar, who’s India’s star-studded counterinsurgent officer, termed the situational scrutiny on social media in Kashmir as kite-flying.

In between, BJP’s central committee led by PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah has called its regional leaders to Delhi for a meeting on Tuesday.

The sudden call has further fuelled speculations—even though, BJP’s National Vice-President, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who was in Srinagar on Saturday, dismissed the rumours about the abrogation of Article 35-A.

Moreover, Muneer Khan, ADGP, Law and Order, termed the additional deployment as replacement “of those personnel of training companies, who are deployed on various duties since last year’s Urban Local Bodies elections”.

Amid these talks, the focus has once again returned to Article 35-A, the State Subject Law which protects the demographic status of the Jammu and Kashmir state in its prescribed constitutional form.

The Article 35-A allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was inserted through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, which was issued by President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, on the advice of the Nehru-led Government of India.

While the additional deployment and subsequent leaked circulars have created what Mehbooba Mufti said “fear psychosis in people”, a series of ‘source-based’ reports have further fuelled rumours.

PDP workers protest against the proposed abrogation of Article 35-A. (File Photo)

Citing sources, many reports from New Delhi earlier suggested that NDA government-led by Narendra Modi might announce the revocation of Article 35-A after August 15.

One such report appeared in National Herald, with a barking headline: Centre all set to abrogate Article 35A in J&K, will move 10k additional paramilitary troops there: Sources.

“The entire operation to deal with the law and order fallout in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 35-A has even been code-named,” the report, quoting “top sources in the government”, said.

Another report based on “reliable sources” appeared in India Today, stating: Centre might make 35A move by Aug 15. “India Today TV learnt from reliable sources that the big announcement could be made before August 15 i.e. on Independence Day,” the report said.

Netizens in the valley, however, denounced these “source-based reports” and circulars as part of a “psychological operation”, to test waters in the valley.

“But who is leaking these memos and orders?” wrote Ather Zia, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at the University of Northern Colorado, in a Facebook post. “Seems they issue them and throw them on Whatsapp. I am as anxious as you but this psy-ops is next level mental.”

As alarms escalated, PDP chief exhorted NC patron, Dr Farooq Abdullah to call an All-Party Meeting. Senior Abdullah has obliged and the meet might take place in a couple of days. The call came after Shah Faesal, the bureaucrat-turned-politician, termed unity as the need of the hour.

“I think we are at a stage when all political leadership should keep their egos aside and sit together for some time,” Shah Faesal said in a Facebook post. “Onus is on Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti to meet in Srinagar as soon as possible and invite all other political leaders from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh who have an interest in protecting the special status of the state.”

But as guesswork is at still play, BJP’s ally and PC chief, Sajad Lone, said, nobody seems to have the remotest idea of what is in the offing.

The signs, Lone said, however, are ominous and rumor mills are rife with suggestions that the special identity of Kashmiri people may be under attack.

“If the government of the day indeed has any such intentions, it would be tantamount to stretching adventurism to unacceptable limits,” Lone warned.

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