Unable to contact their family members living in the Valley, a sense of panic and anxiety has gripped the Kashmiri traders and shop owners in Kolkata in the wake of the latest political developments in Jammu & Kashmir over the scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution and a total shutdown of communication channels.
While many are eager to get back home to see for themselves that their near and dear ones are safe, some have been forced to cancel the plans of returning home this Eid as the situation in the Valley continues to be volatile and curfew has also been imposed.
In a big triumph for the Government, both the Houses of the Parliament have passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 and adopted the resolution to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution which granted special status to J&K, paving way for bifurcation of the state into two UTs — Jammu & Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh sans one.
Since Sunday night, all communication channels, including mobile networks, internet, broadband and landlines, have been blocked in most parts of J&K.
Ahmed Butt, who works as a manager at the sprawling ‘Kashmiri Emporium’ in Kolkata’s New Market, said that he was really concerned about his parents, wife and two children living in the Valley. He has not been able to contact them since Sunday night and has advanced his plan to head back home.
“Connectivity is the main issue. Irrespective of the recent developments, if you cannot contact your family members living far away, it is a real concern. I was hearing news and many are saying that the situation is not likely to normalise very soon. It will be like this at least till August 15. It is a worrisome factor,” Butt told IANS.
“I have got a ticket and I am going back to them. In any case, I had a plan to go there during the Eid celebrations, but I have advanced my trip after Monday’s development. Many of my Kashmiri friends, who also work as traders here, are heading home,” he added.
When asked about his opinion regarding the Centre’s move to revoke Article 370, the trader said that he was not sure if it will have a positive or negative impact. But he felt that the locals should have been taken into confidence before taking such a “big step”.
“The ruling party is saying that it is a positive step, but the opposition parties are saying that the way it (Article 370) has been abrogated is unconstitutional. Majority of the Kashmiris would say that it should have been discussed in the state Assembly. It is a major issue that has been pending for 70 years. It should have been debated,” Butt said.
However, another trader in the old building of New Market was blatant in his criticism of the Central government and the way the issue has been handled.
“My parents are there. I am scared and tensed for them as I couldn’t talk to them since yesterday. I do not think it (revoking Article 370) will be good for the Valley. The agreement was made between Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947, but they have broken that agreement. At that point, people of Kashmir preferred to stay with India over Pakistan, but today they have been proved wrong,” said Riaz Ahmed Mir, the owner of Kashmir Hut.
“We knew India to be secular, but now it has become Hindu India under the BJP rule. This should not happen. There should have been discussions with the politicians and local communities in Kashmir. But nothing like that has happened and they (Centre) have divided our state into two parts. On top of that, the parts have been turned into Union Territories, so the local governments will not have any power,” Mir lamented.
Azhar, a Kashmiri handicraft shop owner in Esplanade, said that he has cancelled his plans to go back to the valley during Eid, as the situation there was tense and may turn extremely volatile in the coming days.
Like many others, he is also in the dark about the condition of his family members and is hoping that they are safe as no major incidents of violence have been reported in the media since Monday’s development.
“I have cancelled my plans of going back now. It is too risky. It is not just CrPC 144, but curfew has also been imposed. People can get shot at now,” added Azhar, who has four family members, including his wife and their teenage son, living in Srinagar.
Many of the Kashmiri traders said that their business will be hit at least for the next few weeks as connectivity is disrupted in the Valley.
While many were sceptical about the prospects of investment and industrialisation in Kashmir, now that the bar on buying land in the valley has been lifted, some said the move might be the right one as Article 370 was “bound to be done away with” at some point.
“I do not want to say anything on the scrapping of Article 370. It was a transitional and temporary bill. It was bound to be dissolved at some point. So may be what has happened, has happened for good,” a trader said on condition of anonymity.