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Kashmiris in a civil disobedience mode, are going against 'diktat' to open shops

Counterview Desk
A team of concerned citizens, including Ludhiana-based psychiatrist and writer Anirudh Kala, Mumbai-based activist and public health professional Brinelle Dsouza, Delhi-based journalist and writer Revati Laul, and social activist Shabnam Hashmi, travelled to Kashmir and Jammu to understand the impact of the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent security clampdown and communication blockade on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
Even as withholding the names those whom the team met in order to protect their identity, the team, which was on a fact-finding mission, in its 74 page “#KashmirCivilDisobedience – A Citizens' Report” has asserted, it has reproduced large chunks of what people said, almost unprocessed.
The team, which was in Kashmir from September 25 to 30 and Jammu on October 6 -7, has prepared a note on the report so as to bring to light what it calls “open-source material for whoever finds it useful.”

Excerpts from the note:

There has been a lot that is very substantial and worthy written on what has been going on in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution on 5th August 2019. However, we did find ourselves looking at the big picture differently from those that have gone in and written reports so far.
The Indian government has spun the story that their clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir with an increased military presence, summary arrests of all mainstream and separatist leaders and the communication blockade has made the unfolding of this new reality peaceful.
But we found exactly the opposite. Kashmir is on edge – humiliated, angry, disturbed and `disrobed,' as a journalist who spoke to us described it. The fact that there has been no violence has to do with the resilience of the people.
It is an active and collective choice being exercised each day, to observe a civil disobedience. In feeling rejected and betrayed by the Indian state, Kashmiris have chosen to respond back, through a largely non-violent protest.
Most people we met told us they were keeping their shops and offices closed not under any call by militants or separatists or political leaders but as an act of resistance against the Indian state. This time, there is no leader and no call to protest from anyone.
Anirudh Kala, Brinelle Dsouza, Revati Laul, Shabnam Hashmi
So the decision to keep shops and businesses shut is one that individuals have taken across Kashmir, largely on their own. This mode of protest sets these two months of lockdown apart from all others in the past.
People in Kashmir are no longer interested in an interaction with the Indian state. That space is now dead. From those who have been hardliners to separatists demanding a union with Pakistan or azadi to those siding with India – they have all reacted to the current political situation as a big, abominable trauma.
The collective shock, fear of reprisal has however turned them into silent protestors. They say this may well be the lull before the storm or the making of molten mass that is bound to erupt; but regardless of what comes next, these 60 days need to be recorded as a phenomenon in its own right.
We spoke to a spectrum of people from politicians ,bureaucrats, homemakers, schoolteachers, traders, fruit-sellers, taxi unions, students, teachers, intellectuals, poets, writers, farmers, children, journalists, civil society workers, Pandits, Sikhs and Christians and even wedding caterers across five districts over eight days.
From Srinagar to Baramulla to Anantnag to Badgam and Jammu, all had one thing in common – every single interaction was an emotional outpouring. So we decided to write about what has gone amiss in the day to day lives of people and to present that as an emotional landscape. We felt that would be the truest way to tell the story of what we saw, heard and experienced in this very short trip.
Kashmir is riddled with fear that spiral binds itself in sharp concertina wire around the valley. There are stories of torture, arrests, even of young boys detained under the draconian Public Safety Act. Despite this fear, people defied the odds and chose to keep their shops closed. Were they motivated by militants? 
We only picked up two or three instances where people said they had seen notices pasted possibly by militants, on a masjid wall, warning people against opening their shops. We heard many more anecdotes about how the armed forces and para-military taken together were forcing people to keep their establishments open.  
These are people the Kashmiris are equally scared of. It is at their behest that people are being arrested. So the decision to defy them is significant and brazen. And yet, that is the choice most Kashmiris have made. To go against the diktat to open shop. And remain in this mode of civil disobedience for as long as they can.
The picture painted across much of the media was, Jammu was celebrating. However, our research suggested that this was at best a distorted picture 
When 370 was struck down, the picture painted across much of the national media was that Jammu was celebrating. However, our initial research suggested that this was a completely untrue or at best a distorted picture.
Unlike the Kashmir valley, Jammu was not in a lockdown. There was no civil disobedience. Landlines, mobile networks and Wifi connections were working. Shops were open. You could connect with people by and large. Restaurants were open until 11 pm. Malls were open.
Tourists were of course absent. We were the only occupants at our hotel, which has 45 rooms, most are booked out at this time of the year, the staff informed us. However, with shops open, communication more or less in place and restaurants and commercial establishments open for business, what could possibly be the trauma, if any, for the people of Jammu?
Quite a lot, we discovered in no time. A transporter summed it up for us when he said, post the abrogation of 370, “Kashmir has had one eye taken out, Jammu has had both eyes removed.” A contingent of transporters and traders that we met could not stop talking about their all-around distress. They told us that transport is a 35,000-crore business in Jammu. It has come to a standstill.
“Sara karobar thap ho gaya. If there were 500 vehicles at the railway station every day, they take goods from the trains to nearby towns within a 50 km radius. Earlier these 500 trucks would have a trip a day which got them 800-1000 rupees. Post abrogation, that has come down to one trip in four days,” a transporter explained. That's business cut down to a quarter already. Traders had similar stories. 
But the stories of trauma that were the most disturbing came from students of various minorities studying at Jammu University. They told us they have resigned themselves to being second class citizens. They said they fear for their lives. They are being called terrorists on campus for being Muslim and live in the constant fear of being lynched. Here is a deeply distressing outpouring, reproduced as is.
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Click HERE to read full report

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