Lt Governor Manoj Sinha at 77th Independence Day celebrations at Bakshi Stadium, in Srinagar

Complete peace in Jammu and Kashmir still remains a distant goal and the journey towards it will be a lengthy one even though the situation is better than before

The Supreme Court of India has been hearing petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370. The petitions are related to the revocation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. The Supreme Court scheduled daily hearings for these petitions starting from 2 August 2023. The hearings are expected to continue for several days as the court examines the legal arguments and considerations surrounding the abrogation of Article 370. For those who benefited from the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, as well as the passing of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, it may seem like another attempt to grant legitimacy to insidious Islamist forces under the Constitution of India.

J&K Police take part in March Past at the Independence Day function at Bakshi Stadium

People queued up outside the Bakshi Stadium to participate in the Independence Day function

Student present a cultural dance on the occasion of I-day in Srinagar

The visuals emerging from Srinagar city and the adjoining districts in the Kashmir Valley on this Independence Day are not only stunning in their appearance but also remarkable due to their unprecedented nature. Relatives have informed me that, for the first time, there was no frisking or extensive security measures in the sports complex at Bakshi Stadium, apart from the usual employment of body scanners and security personnel at entry points and checkpoints. The long lines of Kashmiris from various backgrounds queuing up to take part in the celebrations serve as a testament to the positive outcomes resulting from the abrogation of Article 370.

Kashmir used to observe 15 August as a Black Day throughout the 90s and the 2000s – following orders from terror organizations and their political arm, the Hurriyat factions, whose members were all affiliated with the now-banned Jamaat-e-Islami. During Independence Day and Republic Day, the Hurriyat factions and terror organizations used to call for Hartal or bandh, leading security forces to declare curfews in the most volatile stone-pelting areas of the Valley to prevent any untoward incidents.

In the evenings, we became accustomed to searching for dark fabric or material to cover our windows. This was prompted by the “Blackout” initiative promoted by Azadi-supporting groups. They considered illuminated lights during certain days as symbols of celebration, although these were part of disinformation efforts aimed at creating a false impression of local Kashmiri consent for Azadi (independence). These campaigns were propagated by factions backed by Pakistan within India, with their spokespeople in the Kashmiri media (including certain high-profile news portals run by ‘militant-turned-editors’).

There used to be a complete ban on government salaried employees attending Independence Day celebrations, accompanied by explicit threats from the now-banned Hizbul Mujahideen terror organization and others, promising to kill the first person who set foot in the stadium. The mornings of 15 August and 26 January would awaken us to the sound of helicopters patrolling Srinagar city for RPG and bomb threats, and snipers positioned at high points on buildings overlooking the Bakshi Stadium. It was inconceivable for any sensible person to attend their office or institution, but many would brave it – caught between the orders of terrorists and separatist politicians, and government directives to attend the parades.

The celebrations today, devoid of risk and exuberant, have been made possible due to the Parliament’s approval of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 and the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. It required the political determination of the BJP to alter the perception of ordinary Kashmiris regarding the sanctity of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status or autonomy—a fallacy that had been ingrained in our radicalized generations since the 1960s. Presently, previously seditious influencers like Shehla Rashid and Shah Faesal, the much-touted IAS topper, express support for the abrogation and the BJP’s initiatives in the Valley through the LG Manoj Sinha.

However, for those of us who learned self-preservation during the armed insurgency, this education extended beyond crossfires, spontaneous crackdowns, arrests, and frisking. We also learned to censor our innermost thoughts from the broader society, which had developed Orwellian traits of surveillance and policing over the beliefs and actions of dissidents of Azadi. Muslim dissenters of radical political Islam were identified through their conversations, social media posts, discussions in staffrooms, water points, streets, cafes, general reputations, and their names were given to the armed factions of the Hurriyat. These factions made it a practice to send ‘unidentified gunmen’ to the dissenters’ homes or workplaces, intimidating them into silence—a code of silence from the Intifada factory that prohibited Kashmiri Muslims from mentioning the atrocities committed by terrorists and the plight of the Kashmir Pandit community.

Hence, we observe the celebrations sceptically, having vowed to never again permit insidious Islamist forces to amass power and dominate the politics and society of Kashmir. We, the ideological refugees of Islamism within our own nation of Bharat, scrutinize the changes on the ground. While we welcome them, we remain cautious of the nature of deception that the predators of the now-banned Jamaat-e-Islami practiced throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, culminating in the eruption of turmoil in Kashmir in 1989. This occurred despite periodic reports from agencies regarding the accumulation of weapons and ammunition and infiltration across the border. Today, we are even more vigilant about the network of the Intifada factory, spanning decades and infiltrating the bureaucracy, media, academia, and the security apparatus. We do not allow the dazzle and spectacle of Independence Day celebrations to lull our minds into complacency.

Thus, on this 77th Independence Day, with its unparalleled scenes of Tiranga rallies, ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ initiatives, and the enthusiasm exhibited in stadiums, it remains crucial to recognize that while the battle for Kashmir may have been won, the war is far from concluded. This represents a clash of civilizations between monotheism and a polytheistic society, a conflict between a 5,000-year-old civilization and a centuries-old ideology, an encounter between intolerance and bigotry. Complete peace in Jammu and Kashmir remains a distant goal, and the journey towards it will be a lengthy one.