I had the good fortune of meeting with the delegation of EU envoys at The Lalit Srinagar on the evening of 17th February 2020. This visit of the foreign delegates to the UT was an important step aimed to study and understand the situation on the ground. The meeting resulted in a productive discourse on myriad relevant subjects such as the successful and transparent conduct of DDC Elections, and curbs on terror financing by the Government of India. I urged the delegates to stand united against violence, which has claimed innumerable innocent lives in the UT over the course of the past seven decades. In the same vein, the abrogation and settlement of Article 370 by PM Modi have done a massive favour to me, and all Kashmiris. It has gone a long way to safeguarding the lives of Kashmiris under the effective leadership of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.
The visit of 24 foreign diplomats to J&K also showcased a deepening democracy on the part of the J&K government as together, they sought a broader dialogue about the existing situation on the ground. Nazir Ahmad Khan, the District Development Council, apprised the diplomats of the Center’s positive measures after 5th August 2019 when J&K’s special constitutional position was ended by the government. Ever since then, the UT has seen several remarkable positive steps towards the restoration of peace and harmony. One such significant measure is placing a three-tier system by conducting the DDC polls. The Lt. Governor stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure, education, industries, healthcare, sustainable livelihood and skill development to ensure that every citizen of Jammu & Kashmir has a safe future and earns recognition for their work. LG Manoj Sinha also highlighted the introduction of targeted solutions to address dire issues like poverty, health, the skill development of youth and job opportunities. Furthermore, he shared that concrete steps are being taken to ensure that the benefits of the various government schemes reach far and wide.
India and Pakistan have been fighting over the strategic territory of Kashmir for 70 years. This is an endless crisis that reached a new level in the summer of 2020 with the brutal revocation of the semi-autonomy of the Indian part of this region, one of the worst powder kegs on the planet. In 1947, the end of the British Indian Empire overnight led to the brutal creation of two states: India (Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim). The separation took place in pain, against a backdrop of massive population exodus and deadly violence on both sides. Wedged between these two countries is the princely territory of Kashmir, strategically located on the flanks of the Himalayas. After the first intrusion by the Pakistani army, its leader, a Hindu Maharaja, decided to ally with India against the will of its predominantly Muslim population in exchange for a special status of autonomy. And the rest is history! Even after 70 years of this historical partition, Pakistan continues spreading unrest and lies throughout the world about India’s intentions towards my beloved hometown.
As a resident of Kashmir, I can say with conviction that the biggest problem in the state today is the drawing of false narratives and conclusions. Since I hail from this wonderful region of India, I know that there was no strike on the day the envoys came to Kashmir. However, Pakistani elements continue propagating lies and fabricated views through their social media tactics to convey to the world that Kashmir is under siege and the people of J&K haven’t accepted India. On the contrary, the reality is that Kashmiris have accepted that they are an integral and vital part of India, and a loud message has been conveyed to the entire world that we stand in solidarity. The massive participation of people in DDC elections and the peaceful conduct of these elections is a testimony to this fact. Contrary to the fabricated information disseminated by Pakistan, the delegates were accorded a traditional Kashmiri welcome. The Budgam visit provided the foreign diplomats with an opportunity to interact with the local representatives and general public at large as well as hear directly from them about the empowerment and functioning of grassroot democratic institutions, developmental activities, grievance redressal mechanisms and the devolution of power. The envoys also got the opportunity to witness “Block Diwas,” which is a public outreach initiative organized by the local administration every week. They were also briefed on the people-centric schemes that are constantly being implemented by the J&K government. I expressed my appreciation of the police and civil administration for the peaceful conduct of the DDC elections and the smooth restoration of grassroots democracy. There were no strikes or protests during this visit, and there was tight security across Srinagar, particularly where the diplomats held their meetings. This spontaneous shutdown took place in the Kashmir Valley prior to the arrival of the foreign delegates, and no group issued a strike call during this time.
Although this visit of the EU delegation proved quite productive and an immersive experience for all, the foreign envoys missed out on witnessing and knowing about a number of important subjects in Kashmir. For instance, they could not discuss and introspect the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Another topic that went undiscussed was the killing of hundreds of political workers of the mainstream parties and the barbaric massacre of security forces. The envoys could not bear witness to the tears of Zohra, the daughter of ASI Abdul Rashid of JKP, who was martyred during these attacks.
That said, thanks to the brave Indian security forces who protected our land from utter destruction, we persevered and lived to fight another day. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without their courageous actions, Kashmir would have turned into another Syria or Iraq. I firmly believe that India was, is and always will be our saviour, as has been proven time and time again. There are still efforts to disrupt the peace and progress of this place by terror factories, as was seen by the attack on the famous Krishna Dhaba owners’ son, Akash Mehra, in Srinagar on the day the envoys were in Srinagar. However, it is just a matter of time that these unsocial elements will be a thing of the past, and the people of Kashmir (including me) will thrive under the efficient leadership of PM Modi and Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
I strongly believe that when it comes to the vicious circle of violence and discord in J&K, targeted solutions under the leadership of PM Modi and LG Manoj Sinha is a great way to ensure consistent progress and development in the state. It is only a matter of time before peace is restored, and PM Modi’s message of celebrating life and putting a stop to deaths is fervently embraced by all. PM Modi has effectively settled the long-standing issue of Kashmir forever by abrogating Article 370 and 35A. We can doubtlessly stand by our vision of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and work together as a team for the prosperity and well-being of Jammu & Kashmir and the global community as a whole, as eloquently stated by Manoj Sinha. We can fight against the relentless attempts of our neighbours to destabilize the security situation of our country and trigger social disharmony in the state by keeping sight of holistic development.
All in all, positivity and a better tomorrow seem to be on the horizon, and I, for one, cannot wait to be a part of this epic change.