Kashmiri Muslims and Indian security forces hugged each other and exchanged sweets after special Eid prayers on Monday morning at several local mosques.
An international broadcasting house did not air this heartening scene during news hour. Instead, it showed a drug store to highlight shortage of medicines in the valley, protesters carrying Pakistani flags and chanting anti-India slogans and a Washington-based analyst calling for UN intervention in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
The protest video did not appear authentic. It may have been shot in Pakistan.
Another international broadcasting house played a video of bullets being fired at ‘Kashmiri protesters’ while reporting unrest and use of force in Kashmir. That video too appeared doctored.
The Indian home ministry has asked representatives of the two media houses to present the original videos to prove they are genuine.
A section of Western media seems to be mindlessly parroting a certain narrative peddled by Pakistani agencies and some senior leaders of India’s Congress party on the situation in J&K after it ceased to be a state and became a union territory last week.
The Indian Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 6) overwhelmingly voted for scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution that gave J&K special status for the past 72 years. The House also passed a bill bifurcating the region into two union territories — Jammu & Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without one.
Article 370 a temporary provision
The hue and cry raised by a section of the international media, Pakistani agencies and Congress party over the scrapping of Article 370 is meaningless.
The article was a temporary provision which did more harm than good to the country.
It created a virtual division between the union government and J&K and a false sense of alienation among Kashmiris. It was the root cause of militancy, terrorism, rampant corruption and economic backwardness in the region.
The scrapping of Article 370 was a masterstroke by the central government to bring J&K into the mainstream, ensure it development and corruption-free governance after decades of neglect, restore peace in the valley and generate jobs for youth.
Instead of supporting the integration and development of Kashmir, Congress leaders are giving a dangerous spin to the abrogation of Article 370.
Chidambaram’s communal spin
One of them, former home minister P Chidambaram told a gathering in his home state that Article 370 was removed by the central government because J&K was the only Muslim-majority state in the country.
Chidambaram was trying to whip up communal passions when Jammu & Kashmir’s need of the hour was positive directions from all leaders to move forward.
Mani Shankar Iyer, another Congress leader, likened the situation in J&K to Palestine. By drawing an analogy between them, Iyer was trying to further divide Hindus and Muslims in J&K.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who maintained stoic silence during the parliamentary debate on Article 370, responded late with a tweet that a nation is made by its people, not plots of land.
But the removal of special status to J&K will allow people from other states to buy land and settle there. Among them are millions of Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to flee their home state in 1990 and live as refugees in their own country.
The dumping of Article 370 sends a strong message to locals that from now on, everyone will enjoy equal rights. It seems Rahul missed that point.
During a marathon party meeting to elect a successor for him as president, Rahul surprised the media by talking about the situation in J&K instead of what transpired at the meeting.
Citing ‘reports’, he said protests are happening in J&K and people are dying. He was misinformed. Not a bullet has been fired since the security clampdown in the territory eight days ago, home ministry sources said.
On Tuesday, J&K Governor Satyapal Malik said Rahul was giving wrong information on the situation in the valley. In a rather symbolic gesture, he invited him to the valley to assess the situation there for himself.
Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, Congress member and leader of the opposition in the Lower House (Rajya Saha), shocked the Parliament during a debate on Article 370 by asking Home Minister Amit Shah whether J&K was an integral part of India as the UN had been monitoring the situation there since 1947.
Later, Choudhary compared the J&K situation to the Nazi concentration camp because of the ongoing communication blackout for the past eight days.
Pakistan, which is facing international isolation for not doing enough to rein in terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed, has welcomed the views of Chidambaram, Iyer, Rahul, Choudhary and others.
Echoing Choudhary’s views, Prime Minister Imran Khan said India is trying to change the demography of Kashmir through “ethnic cleansing” “inspired by Nazi ideology.”
A minister under him, Fawad Hussain, even appealed to Punjabis in the Indian army to refuse to serve in Kashmir.
According to Pakistani President Arif Alvi, social media is his country’s biggest weapon.
Western media, which support democratic countries in their fight against divisive forces, are taking a different line on J&K.
One broadcasting company calls Kashmir ‘Indian occupied Kashmir’ and terrorist Hafiz Saeed a ‘cleric’.
A leading US newspaper said ‘Hindu-led India’ in a headline on abrogation of Article 370.
Most countries Pakistan approached for support against India over Article 370 have snubbed it. They accepted the fact J&K is an integral part of India and its special status was removed through a democratic process.
In another jolt to a section of media, Congress and left parties, India’s Supreme Court said the situation in J&K is sensitive and the government needs time to remove restrictions.
The central government has disabled internet, mobile phone and landline services in J&K amid intelligence reports that Pakistani agencies are set to launch a massive misinformation campaign to mislead youth and trigger protests and violence in the region once online services are restored.
Reports also say a large number of terrorists and dozens of soldiers of Pakistan Army’s Special Service Group are waiting to cross the border to launch attacks.
In the meantime, patriotic fervour has gripped J&K as India is preparing to celebrate its Independence Day on August 15. Reports say the tricolour will be unfurled at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to visit J&K on Thursday.
‘J&K, Ladakh to benefit’
Delivering his Independence Day address to the nation, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday expressed confidence that the scrapping of Article 370 will immensely benefit the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
This will enable them to access and enjoy the same rights, privileges and facilities their fellow citizens enjoy in the rest of the country.
‘Will teach India a lesson’
In a speech marking Pakistan’s Independence Day on Thursday, Khan said his country will teach India a lesson if it attacks Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
He said the Pakistani army has solid evidence of an Indian plan to launch a bigger offensive than the Balakot airstrike to shift the world’s focus away from Jammu & Kashmir.
Pakistan will be observing India’s Independence Day on Thursday as a ‘black day.’