Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu has said that while there may not be any bodies littering the streets of Kashmir, assuming that it has returned to normal would be “highly unrealistic”. “Containing a sentiment in the aftermath of a radical decision by enforcing a clampdown doesn’t mean that the situation is normal. The BJP government’s policy of detainment seems to be a purely operational one,” he said.
The mayors of Srinagar and Jammu were granted status equivalent to “Minister of State” through a central order last month, weeks after the Narendra Modi government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two distinct union territories. Mr Mattu, however, has remained critical of the central government’s handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Srinagar Mayor, who is also the spokesperson of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC), went on to condemn the Centre’s act of placing mainstream politicians in Kashmir under arrest. “Over the years, political activists in Kashmir have braved threats and violence by terrorist elements to survive in the mainstream. But today, they are hunted and hounded,” he said.
Incidentally, JKPC chief Sajjad Lone was among those taken into custody ahead of the Centre’s move on Jammu and Kashmir.
Mr Mattu was also critical of the clampdown imposed on Kashmir, although the central government has given its assurance that it will be gradually eased. “There are still a lot of families that haven’t been able to communicate with their loved ones,” Mr Mattu said.
The Srinagar Mayor claimed that scrapping Jammu and Kashmir’s special status had caused an “existential crisis” because it formed the very basis of its identity. “We have always lived with a very palpable threat of violence, that’s not a new scenario. But to use that to justify the withdrawal of fundamental rights… that’s at the very core of alienation in Kashmir,” said Mr Mattu.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had justified the need to impose restrictions on Jammu and Kashmir in an interview with Politico last week, saying that such a step was “essential” to prevent terrorists from joining forces against the administration. “How do I cut off communications between terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the Internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know,” he responded, when asked about the hardships that the residents of Kashmir may be undergoing due to the clampdown.