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OPINION | Life getting normal in J&K but challenges remain

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“People in the valley realise that peace, stability and a terror-free environment is essential for the development of the region and is critical for their livelihood,”

By Mahua Venkatesh
28 Dec 2020

Life is steadily coming back to normal as instances of terrorism show a decline in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent opening up of economic activities in with the containment of the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to Statistica.com, a data collation platform, in 2018, there were approximately 614 terrorist-related incidents in the region which killed 91 defence personnel and 38 civilians. In 2019, the ghastly Pulwama attack killing over 40 Jawans shook the country. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Reports from various sources have suggested that there has been a decrease in terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the controversial Article 370 on August 5, 2019. The clause allowed special status to the Jammu and Kashmir for over 70 years. Barring matters related to defence, foreign affairs, communications and other matters which were specified in the Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre required the
approval of the state government for other laws.

“People in the valley realise that peace, stability and a terror-free environment is essential for the development of the region and is critical for their livelihood,” said a senior official of the Jammu and Kashmir government, who did not wish to be identified. Underlining the importance of a large turnout for the district development council
(DDC) elections, the official said that the local people are keen to see normal economic activities revive in the union territory.

Success of the DDC elections

The first ever DDC elections were held in the valley this year. The DDC elections, which concluded on December 19, were held in eight phases. The counting of votes will be held on December 22.

About six million voters are eligible to elect 280 members of DDC. The state election commissioner KK Sharma on Saturday said that the final phase of DDC elections witnessed a voter turnout of 50.98 per cent. Lieutenant Governor of J&K Manoj Sinha also congratulated the voters of for the success of the first-ever DDC elections in the Union
Territory.

“This is a huge step and this shows that people of the valley want to integrate into the social framework and participate in the development story,” the official said, adding that a section of the society will have “a problem in admitting this.”

“Things are normalising in J&K and investments have started pouring into the valley,” BJP spokesperson and a commentator on economic affairs Narendra Taneja said. Tourism, one of the main industries in the erstwhile state, has already seen a pick up this winter.

“People have started going to Jammu and Kashmir, the perception now is that it is a safe place,” a Subhash Goyal, chairman, Stic Travel and chairman of Assocham’s tourism and hospitality council said.

The European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) in a recent study said that “it appears that many might have found hope in the nullification of Article 370.” “Although the abolition of Jammu & Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status was followed by economic justifications – a clear attempt at converting the terrorist narrative
to an economic-development narrative – it is evident that Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism was the State’s main concern.

New way of radicalisation needs address

The study noted that the future of terrorism in J&K remains uncertain, though the cases have eased.

“In the contemporary era, endlessly evolving technologies have enabled notorious terrorist organizations to master the art of dissemination of propaganda, and online radicalization and recruitment.” The social media platforms have marked the beginning ‘Cyber jihad’.

“The valley is going through a very critical phase and this is something that the government has to keep in mind rather than getting complacent. Peace in the valley is critical to ensure the people have access to education and employment,” another state government official said.

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