RESTRICTIONS on mobile telephony in the Kashmir Valley should have been lifted soon after they were removed in the Jammu region. Now, after two months, there is no apparent security reason for the administration to continue with the clampdown on communications. When the Union government is justified in congratulating itself for preventing the loss of lives in the Valley while it scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution, for the same reason, it is not justified in prolonging the mobile phone shutdown. By switching on the Valley phones earlier, the Modi government would have legitimately been able to take pride in being responsive towards its citizens. It is already late.
On Monday night, the US House foreign relations committee issued a strongly-worded statement while retweeting a New York Times story on the death of a snake-bite victim in Baramulla: ‘India’s communication blackout in Kashmir is having a devastating impact on the lives and welfare of everyday Kashmiris. It is time for India to lift these restrictions and afford Kashmiris the same rights and privileges as any other Indian citizen.’ The statement has come ahead of the Asia subcommittee hearing scheduled on October 22. The tweet is significant, for the US House committee has described Kashmiris as Indian citizens, unequivocally.
This endorsement of the Indian position on the status of J&K comes in the wake of Imran Khan’s desperate attempts to drum up support for his jihad against India. The world has had enough of Islamist expansionism and no amount of breast-beating in the name of the people of the Valley can legitimise a proxy war. Yet, it needs to be underscored that the biggest threat to the Indian state in the Valley is often itself. The Union government seems to be in a state of amnesia in its actions towards all those who had kept the flag flying in the Valley. In fact, until the phones are buzzing, nobody outside the Valley will even believe that there is no restriction on movement there. Kashmiris, too, need to be protected and connected to the rest of the world, like any other Indian citizen.