'Why Fear?': J&K Government's Newspaper Advertisement Pricks 'Normalcy' Balloon

The state government, in an ad, has asked people to resume their normal lives.

Srinagar: Friday marks the 68th day of uncertainty in Kashmir. Markets remain shut and public transport is off the roads. There are very few signs of normalcy returning to the restive Valley any time soon.

Meanwhile, the state government on Friday issued front page advertisements in local newspapers, urging people to resume their ‘normal lives’.

“Closed shops. No public transport,” reads the advertisement. “Who benefits?”

The appeal was made at a time when both the government of India and the state government, continue to claim that situation in Kashmir was normal. “Are we going to succumb to militants,” reads the advertisement. “Think!!!”

Also read: The Failing Art of Selling Normalcy in Kashmir

The full ad. Photo: The Wire

“We are at the crossroads today. Do we permit the age old tactic of threats and coercion to influence us?” reads the advertisement.

“Will threat and misinformation prevail or will we take informed decisions on what is best for us?”

Though there was no apparent ‘call’ for shutdown from any quarter, the propagated view in the ad seems to be that people themselves have decided not to resume their normal lives.

Authorities have been saying they have opened up educational institutions, but students have not returned to the classrooms which have been closed since August 5, the day New Delhi read down Article 370 of the Constitution.

The move stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its separate constitution and flag.

Even before taking away the special status of the state, the government had imposed strict restrictions, fearing the massive backlash. Communication services including mobile services and the internet were completely suspended.

Though restrictions were eased to a large extent after one month, mobile phone services and the internet continue to remain suspended.

There is also no word from the government on release of scores of politicians, lawyers, businessman and separatists who have been either detained or put under house arrest.

The jailed politicians include three former state chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. The senior Abdullah has been since booked under Public Safety Act (PSA), a law under which a person can be jailed without trial for up to two years.

Over the past few weeks, private traffic has grown on the roads, particularly in Srinagar. The markets also open for two hours in the morning at around 7 am.

“Will we let a few posters and threats push us into not resuming our business…into not letting development bloom for our Kashmir?” reads the advertisement.

“This is our home. It is for us to think of its well being and prosperity,” it said.

“Why fear?” it further asks.

On Wednesday the government revoked its advisory issued in August that had directed visiting tourists to curtail their stay in the region. The advisory and restrictions in the region have badly hit tourism, one of the mainstays of the Kashmir economy.

The government is now planning an elaborate “Back to the Valley” campaign to woo tourists to Kashmir. But amid the continued uncertainty and communication gag, it remains to be seen whether the move will have any impact on the ground.