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Article 370 verdict: Kashmiris carry on in silence, leaders voice feeble hope

In large swathes of Kashmir, it appeared to be business as usual on Monday. The markets were buzzing with people, traffic was normal, offices were open and there were no restrictions on the Internet

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 12.12.23, 06:24 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File photo

Kashmiris greeted the Supreme Court verdict upholding the abrogation of Article 370 with an unsurprised silence but politicians put up a brave face and asked people to prepare themselves for the long haul to fight for their rights.

In large swathes of Kashmir, it appeared to be business as usual on Monday. The markets were buzzing with people, traffic was normal, offices were open and there were no restrictions on the Internet. The only restrictions were those on politicians who were allegedly placed under house arrest. Some of them were allegedly detained.


The current situation is unlike August 5, 2019, when the announcement on the abrogation of Artice 370 stunned Kashmir and led to strikes and clampdowns that lasted months.

Not that Kashmiris appeared happy with the Supreme Court's Monday verdict but they apparently had little expectations.

“A police officer called me early today to keep my shop open. I told him jokingly that I had no intention of shutting it unless he asked me to. As if we had any expectations,” the shopkeeper told The Telegraph.

Former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti said they were placed under arrest and were not allowed to speak to the media. Both released videos regretting how things were changing in the country but reassuring people about a victory in future.

“Mother of democracy? More like aise taise Democracy,” Omar, known for keeping his emotions in check, posted on X, wondering how former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was allowed to talk to the media.

“Through peaceful means and taking recourse to the Constitution, within the limits of the law, we will fight politically, in the hope that if not today but sometime in future, the situation will be such in our country that we get our rights back. We will get back our identity, our honour, that was snatched from us on August 5,” Omar said.

“I want to assure people that we are surely disappointed but we have not lost hope. We are not in despair, our hearts have been hurt, we have regrets but our efforts will continue.”

The former chief minister referred to previous Supreme Court verdicts that had upheld Article 370, saying they didn't become a reason for the BJP to stop trying.

“Maybe some other (SC) benches (in future) will change their decision. Did the BJP stop its efforts after that (previous judgments)? They took perhaps 70 years, beginning 1950, to weaken and remove Article 370,” he said.

“We could not get justice in the Supreme Court for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. But we will continue our efforts.”

In a post on X, Omar said it took the BJP decades to reach here.

“We are also prepared for the long haul. #WeShallOvercome #Article370,” he posted.

He said the party would consult lawyers to see if the verdict could be challenged.

Mehbooba took a more hardline position, saying it was not the defeat of Kashmiris but of the idea of India.

“The illegal and unconstitutional decision taken in Parliament was made legal today. It is no less a death penalty for Jammu and Kashmir but also for the idea of India,” she said.

“This is not our defeat but the defeat of this country. They betrayed us, not we. By declaring Article 370 temporary, they have weakened the country. They have strengthened the forces in the country who would say that Jammu and Kashmir’s accession with the country is temporary. By declaring Article 370 temporary, you have broken Jammu and Kashmir’s bond (with the country).”

The former chief minister warned that what the Centre had done with Jammu and Kashmir was a threat to the federal structure of the country.

“It is not going to stop here, the beginning made in Jammu and Kashmir will spread to the whole country. Our constitution, our Tricolour under which independence was fought and won, they won’t take much time to snatch it.”

Mehbooba said no verdict was final, even if it came from the Supreme Court.

“No decision is final for us. Ours is a political fight, raging for decades. We have made big sacrifices for honour. We won’t leave halfway, provided we are united.”

People's Conference head Sajad Lone said Article 370 may have been legally obliterated but would always remain a “part of our political aspirations”.

“The Supreme Court verdict on Article 370 is disappointing.... In the case of statehood, the Supreme Court sidestepped even commenting on it, thus protecting the entire country from any future misuse, by citing precedence. Yet the same misuse was subtly endorsed in J&K. Let us hope at a future date Justice wakes up from its slumber of pretence,” Lone said in a post on X.

CPIM veteran M.Y. Tarigami said the verdict would have serious consequences for the federal structure of the Constitution “which is one of its fundamental features”.

Earlier in the day, the People's Democratic Party and the National Conference said Mehbooba and Omar had been placed under house arrest and posted videos and pictures in their support.

Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, however, claimed it was not true.

“Any report of house arrest or arrest of anyone ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution is totally baseless,” Sinha said.

“Dear Mr LG these chains that have been put on my gate have not been put by me so why are you denying what your police force has done It’s also possible you don’t even know what your police is doing? Which one is it? Are you being dishonest or is your police acting independent of you?” Omar posted on X.

The government has taken a host of measures to prevent any unrest and stepped up surveillance on social media.

On Sunday evening, the authorities deputed 29 civil officials as magistrates in Srinagar city, following a communication received from the Srinagar senior superintendent of police to keep an eye on the situation.

Officials said the movement of security convoys was suspended as a precautionary measure on Monday.

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