By: Rana Pratap Saikia

With the Indian Government having declared Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as two Union Territories, one cannot help but wonder how this impacts the people residing in the Kashmir Valley. Some sections of the media have suggested that Kashmiri voices are being silenced, whereas others maintain that all is hunky-dory and the Kashmiris are too busy celebrating the commencement of ‘achche din’ to worry about anything else.

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I had these issues bubbling in my mind, when I met Wasim (name changed), a shawl wallah, one of those local traders from Kahmir who venture forth to warmer territories when winter is nigh, in search of lucre and lustre. So, what does this lad from Kashmir have to say on the issue?

Upon being asked about the “ground situation” in the Valley, his face initially lights up with a radiant smile (Kashmiri people are generally cheery and good-natured by disposition). “How is the situation? The situation is not bad, but then again, all the schools are still closed”, he divulges.

His companion, Shoaib (again, name changed) shrugs his shoulders. “Initially, it was tough, with the curfews and everything, but the situation has simmered down now; it is a bit more cheerful now; people are returning to the streets”, he offers in the way of an explanation.

Wasim interjects.

“Earlier, when people used to come to the valley, they would be offered milk upon asking for water, but now, the things are a bit changed”, he says. The affable Kashmiri then goes on to draw parallels between Assam and the war-torn Kashmir Valley. “Before the Central Government truly made inroads into Assam, for instance, people were cheery and good-natured, but the so-called development has made people materialistic and cold”, Wasim laments.

Shoaib feels that post abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir might lose some of its identity. “Development is good, maybe some jobs will be generated, maybe some factories will be set up. Kashmir is known for its pristine beauty, but once the doors open, it will be flooded with outsiders. Kashmir won’t be Kashmir anymore”, he says with a sigh.

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