Festivals are a time for joyous reunion but Eid-ul-Azha celebrations in J&K remained a muted albeit peaceful affair after the revocation of Article 370. The usual zing was missing because of the restrictions as security forces fanned out to ensure public order and peace. Large gatherings were prohibited and prayers were mostly offered at smaller mosques. There had been protests on Friday but relaxations were made Saturday onwards to enable people to celebrate the occasion. Banks and ATMs functioned, groceries supplied and meetings held with imams to ensure a peaceful congregation. Reports said the government even provided a cleric to the leaders who offered prayers at a hotel. But restrictions on connectivity continued with mobile services, including Internet, remaining suspended in many areas.
Tough security measures are not unknown to J&K that has seen unrest for decades, oscillating between militancy, military action and elected governments. Eid is only the first test, what with August 15 approaching and Pakistan announcing to observe it as ‘black day’ and its own independence day as ‘Kashmir solidarity day’. Pakistan, which promotes religious secessionism and cross-border terrorism in J&K, is trying to up the ante, primarily to address its domestic constituency and its army, a major power centre.
Even as the government claims that the abrogation of Article 370 was essential to curb terrorism, the real test will lie in the days ahead, for it will be difficult to prolong peace on the strength of security forces. It is then that the joy or disillusionment over being downgraded from a state to union territory will come into play. Local leaders will have to be involved and it’s known that Delhi’s choices are viewed with suspicion in the Valley. In a gesture of warm, paternal reassurance, Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh hosted a lunch for Kashmiri students in Chandigarh. He had earlier ordered the police to ensure their safety. We need more Indian politicians to emulate Capt to restore normalcy in the Valley.