New Delhi: Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday said that “not a single bullet has been fired and not a single person has died” after the reading down of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the state’s division into two union territories on August 5.
His claim is contradicted by the unnatural death of at least four persons in Kashmir following action taken by the security forces to deal with protests against the government’s move.
The first person to lose his life was Osaib Altaf, a 17-year-old boy who drowned in the Jhelum after his family and friends say he was chased by security forces personnel on August 5, hours after Shah told parliament that Article 370 was being scrapped.
The second recorded casualty is 34-year-old Fahmeeda Shagu, who died from suffocation caused by tear gas in an uptown neighbourhood of Srinagar on August 9.
On August 17, 55-year-old Ayub Khan from downtown Srinagar died of asphyxiation following the bursting of a teargas shell by the security forces
The fourth person to die in Kashmir in the post-370 period was 18-year-old Asrar Ahmad Khan. On September 4, he succumbed to his injuries at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. According to his friends and family, the boy was injured on the evening of August 6, when paramilitary forces hit him with pellets while he was playing with friends outside his house.
While Shah is right to say “not a single bullet has been fired”, his claim that “not a single person has died” is clearly false.
Interacting with the probationers of the 2018 batch of the Indian Police Service (IPS) in the capital, Shah also said that Jammu and Kashmir would not remain a Union Territory (UT) forever and that its statehood would be restored once the “situation is normalised”, according to an official home ministry release.
It is not clear what metric Shah had in mind for measuring ‘normalisation’.
The MHA quoted the home minister as saying the notion that only Article 370 protected Kashmiri culture and identity was wrong, and that all regional identities are inherently protected by the Indian constitution. However, he appears not to have explained why many states enjoy additional protections via Article 371 of the constitution – protections he has promised to retain.
Shah also alleged that misuse of Article 370 was the root cause of cross-border terrorism, though it is not clear why there was no terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir from 1950, when the article was introduced, to 1989, when violence first erupted. And though the violence has taken the lives of over 48,000 people – a figure the home minister has brandished – annual casualty rates steadily fell in the decade up to 2014 and , despite 370 being in place, and are still a fraction of what they were in the early 1990s.
Referring to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the home minister said NRC was essential not just for the national security, but for good governance.
He said the NRC must not be seen as a political exercise, as it is very important to have a national register of citizens in order to ensure that benefits of development reach all citizens.
Maintenance of law and order is very important to achieve prime minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a $5 trillion economy, he said.
Speaking on the increasing proportion of women in police at every level, Shah said women IPS officers can inspire other women to join the police. He said that gender-based reservation was not the answer to the issue of inadequate representation of women in the police. The home minister also spoke of the need to change societal mindset in this regard.
With inputs from PTI