2019: A year etched in Kashmir history

Srinagar, Dec 31:  From Pulwama attack to abrogation of Article 370 to longest ever internet shutdown, Jammu and Kashmir has been on the edge in 2019.

For the first time in the history of independent India, a state has been divided and downgraded into two union territories in less than 12 hours. Kashmir has earned a dubious distinction of becoming the first place in the world where internet has remained shut for 150 days and counting. 

 

For the first time, the special status granted under article 370 was scrapped without getting the nod from the state assembly. For the first time, an air defence missile downed its own helicopter after mistaking it as Pakistani plane. For the first time since 1971, Indian Air Force jets crossed the Line of Control and bombed Jaish-e-Mohammad camps deep into Pakistan territory at Balakote.

The 2019 started with usual sub-zero temperatures and highway blockade due to landslides. As Kashmir entered into the second month, the chill though subsided, political temperature surged. On February 14, a 21 year old local suicide bomber Adil Dar rammed his explosive-laden car into a convoy of Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) killing more than 40 men and injuring scores others in Pulwama district.

The attack shook entire nation and cries for revenge got shriller. On February 27, Indian Air force jets crossed LoC and bombed Jaish-e-Mohammad camps in Balakote, Pakistan. However, tragedy struck the IAF on the same day when it mistook its own chopper as enemy plane and shot it down killing sir air warriors and a civilian in Budgam district

A day later, tensions spiked up again when Pakistan downed Indian Air Force MIG 21 and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. He was released three days later.

By July things again started heating up and the situation reached a tipping point when Centre decided to close Srinagar—Jammu National Highway for civilian traffic to ensure smooth movement of Amarnath bound yatries. It triggered a storm with people voicing their concern over the unilateral decision of the government.

When situation seemed to be easing up, Centre abruptly called off the yatra and asked pilgrims and tourists to leave Kashmir citing “militant threats”, on August 2. Even before people could fathom the shock, Centre scrapped Article 370 and reorganized state into two union territories in less than 12 hours on August 5.

Entire political leadership including three former chief ministers –Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah –was jailed.  People woke up to curfew across Kashmir. Schools and educational institutions were closed and communication system including phones, mobiles and internet was suspended.

Though land lines and postpaid phones were restored months later, internet continues to remain shut in Kashmir. What came as bolt from the blue was when the state was downgraded into two union territories without consulting people on August 5.

Abrogation of Article 370 triggered a diplomatic row between India and Pakistan with Islamabad expelling Indian high commissioner in protest. 

Official figures reveal that 3200 ceasefire violations were recorded on the LoC in 2019 compared to 1629 in 2018.  Since the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan particularly upped the ante on the borders.

Tensions post abrogation of Article 370 has dealt a major blow to fledgling tourism sector with tourist footfall dropping by 87 percent since August 5. Figures presented in Lok Sabha reveal that only 36105 tourists visited Kashmir in four months from August compared to 267955 in the corresponding period last year.

Preliminary Economic Loss Assessment Report released by The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has revealed startling facts about the losses suffered by the business community in 120 days from August 5 to December 3. More than 4.96 lakh people have lost jobs and business community has incurred over Rs 17800 crore financial losses post abrogation of Article 370 on August 5. 

Kashmir has been simmering after the abrogation of article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two union territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir. Official figures reveal that more than 5161 people including politicians were arrested since the abrogation of Article 370.

 “If all is well, why internet is shut?  Prime Minister has supported peaceful protests on CAA, but has not allowed people to raise voice in Kashmir”, said Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, National Conference MP from Anantnag constituency.

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