All-is-well script bungle
National security adviser Ajit Doval has been on a charm offensive in the Valley since the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, his interactions with ordinary people being diligently filmed and released by the government to buttress its claim that all is well in the state.
But one such interaction went off script on Saturday, when a man rebuffed Doval’s attempts to get his audience to say they were happy with the recent developments.
Authorities have been passing the videos of these interactions on to friendly journalists and TV channels, who have been dutifully circulating or beaming them.
One such video on Saturday showed Doval talking to a group in Anantnag. The national security adviser is seen asking a boy whether he is happy. The boy remains silent but the middle-aged man standing next to him wears a broad smile, suggesting it’s a favourable interaction.
But what the man tells Doval gives the lie to his expression. “Who is happy here, you tell us?” he says in Urdu, still smiling.
Doval later shakes hands with the group and asks a sheep trader how his business is doing.
Several TV channels beamed the video on Saturday but the version tweeted by public broadcaster Prasar Bharati had had the conversation deleted.
A police officer said Doval had also visited downtown Srinagar’s azadi hub where thousands of security men had been deployed. No video of the visit has been released, presumably because there was no one to talk to him.
Doval has been camping in the Valley since Monday, the day the government began its bid to amend Article 370, revoking the state’s special status, scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and divide it into two Union Territories.
The national security adviser has been monitoring the security clampdown while spearheading a public outreach to enlist local support for the government initiative.
Police sources said the government’s decisions had triggered massive outrage, although the lockdown has muted its expression.
An earlier video shot in Shopian on Wednesday showed Doval interacting with a handful of men, with whom he later had a roadside lunch in the main market.
The town had virtually shut down because of the curfew-like restrictions.
A police officer said that at least one of the men did not know who he was interacting with, and was stunned after learning who Doval was. Doval’s is not a familiar face in Kashmir.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has alleged the government is paying people to interact with the national security adviser.
Sources said Doval was moving around with a strong contingent of security forces.
The Valley has witnessed scores of stone-throwing incidents in the past few days but much less compared to past agitations, which has surprised many officials.
A police officer said that almost the entire mainstream and separatist leadership was behind bars and there was nobody to direct the agitators.
“Besides, people are closely watching what Pakistan does. People have adopted a wait-and-watch policy,” the officer said.
The Valley saw its first major demonstration in Srinagar’s Soura locality after the Friday prayers.
Videos showed thousands, some waving Pakistani flags, participate in the rally. But the Union home ministry on Saturday claimed the participation was meagre.