In the many versions of Kashmir story, time to look at the other | Opinion

Amid the ongoing slugfest over whose version of reporting from Kashmir is true, it is pertinent to step back and ask who benefits from the amphitheatre of bloodshed.
Dogs rest on an empty street in Srinagar. There is a need to underline and repeat that while we will have to wait and see how the abrogation of Article 370 pans out for the two new UTs (Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh)(REUTERS)
Dogs rest on an empty street in Srinagar. There is a need to underline and repeat that while we will have to wait and see how the abrogation of Article 370 pans out for the two new UTs (Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh)(REUTERS)
Updated on Jun 13, 2020 10:06 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Truth has always been a casualty in Kashmir. There are always two sides to a story, but in Kashmir the versions depends on how many are telling the story and with what purpose. It wasn’t uncommon to find embellished, exaggerated versions of a story that wasn’t even remotely capable of causing geo-political shakeups. So an ordinary snowfall could pass off for an avalanche, and before the advent of the WhatsApp University, Chinese whispers were enough to spark off fears from the spotting of Yeti to an impending war.

This tendency to embellish and exaggerate would have been funny, if weren’t for the implications of the fractures, the constantly moving underneath of what Kashmir was built on. There was always tension, both palpable and invisible.

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Nothing in Kashmir is limited to within the confines of the lines sketched on the map to define its boundaries. Kashmir is the pivot of our neighbour’s existence; the diversion for its own failings and a fake dream it peddles.

Therefore, there was, at all times, the necessity of constantly guarding the truth from becoming fiction and vice versa.

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Kashmiris are not liars, they are witty, smart and can think on their feet. If anyone ever got down to compiling these stories of witticism and ingenuity; the book will have to come with a caution to the reader — this can really make you laugh.

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But Kashmiris have lived lies for decades.

Who started these lies; who distorted the facts, who took liberty with factuality; who played with evidence — we know and yet we don’t.

Did someone ever try to correct the discourse; did someone put out the facts; read out the fine print; clear the blurred details. They tried and they didn’t.

Kashmir is again caught in the crossfire of truth vs lies. This time, it is more worrying than an avalanche that wasn’t, because this time it can draw blood.

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August 5 took the first step to change the nomenclature of Kashmir, from a state to a union territory. It will change how Kashmir will be administered; and possibly could show the way for it to emerge from the ravages of violence, neglect and untruths.

The intent is to integrate and improve. So then, why are the narratives fractured?

To begin with, there is a need to underline and repeat that while we will have to wait and see how the abrogation of Article 370 pans out for the two new UTs (Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh) there should be no more ambiguity on the issue of it being temporary.

It was a provision that was not a precondition to the instrument of accession signed by the then ruler of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh and its temporary provisions were clearly denoted. With it gone, all laws that apply to rest of India are now applicable to J&K; Article 35A that gave the legislature the powers to determine permanent citizens stands abrogated too.

As Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General wrote for HT recently, “…Article 370 cannot be regarded as an essential feature of the Constitution and comprising its basic structure. Thus abrogation of Article 370 did not require a constitutional amendment and the contention that it is unconstitutional is fallacious.”

Moving on to concerns about the lockdown in Kashmir, the crisis that emerges from people not being able to communicate and move freely, more boots on the ground; these are real too. How the government handles these and builds trust with its people is what needs our attention, not stories incubated in the realms of imagination or mischief to stoke fears or incite violence.

Amid the ongoing slugfest over whose version of reporting from Kashmir is true, it is pertinent to step back and ask who benefits from the amphitheatre of bloodshed.

While we are allowed to have an opinion, discussions over taking away the special status will be specious if they do not traverse to the regions outside of the mesmerizing Kashmir, to the far flung beauteous Ladakh where the wait for basic amenities has stretched over seven decades; to the picturesque but ignored districts of Jammu where bullets flying from across the border kill infants. Have these communities benefited from special provisions that eventually only boiled down to who can buy real estate in the state?

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If for the last 70 years of its existence the special status could do little or nothing to bind the people in peaceful coexistence (remember the exodus of 1990), prevent a life being lost in an ill-equipped hospital or offer a child good education without hartal calendars dictating the timetable, perhaps it’s time to look at the other version of the story.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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