Srinagar: It was a momentous year for Jammu and Kashmir as the Supreme Court gave its stamp of approval to the revocation of its special status and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories, and the Narendra Modi-led government scored a diplomatic victory by holding a key G20 meeting in Kashmir Valley.
However, another year has passed by without elections being held for the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly while urban local body and panchayat polls, which were due this winter, have been put off for the time being.
The BJP-ruled Centre got a massive shot in arm when a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision taken in August 2019 on Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution.
Regional parties like the National Conference, which was one of the petitioners against the Article 370 abrogation before the Supreme Court, and the PDP have vowed to carry on the struggle for the restoration of special status.
“We don’t have to lose heart. We will continue our struggle. The Supreme Court is not God. The same Supreme Court had earlier said that Article 370 cannot be amended without recommendation of (Jammu and Kashmir) constituent assembly. They were also learned judges. Today some other judges passed the ruling. We cannot treat it as God’s verdict,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said after the December 11 verdict of the apex court.
“An unconstitutional and illegal act that took place in Parliament was declared legal. It is nothing less than a death sentence not only for Jammu and Kashmir but for the idea of India,” Mufti said.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said his party is prepared for the long haul.
“I am disappointed but not disheartened. The struggle will continue. We are also prepared for the long haul,” Abdullah said on the Supreme Court decision.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister and the chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), termed the Supreme Court verdict “sad and unfortunate” but said everyone has to accept it “with a heavy heart”.
“We did not expect this decision. We were thinking that the Supreme Court will consider the sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and also the historical background under which Article 370 was incorporated into the Constitution. That was our hope but unfortunately that has not happened,” Azad said.
Surprisingly, there was no response to the Supreme Court decision from the general public who went on with their lives as usual after the verdict was declared.
While the BJP understandably celebrated the verdict, the party had earned some brownie points by holding a key G20 meeting on tourism in Srinagar as most member states had some form of representation at the event.
The hosting of the G20 event also proved to be a major tailwind for development works in Kashmir as Srinagar was transformed with several new landmarks added to the city.
The historic Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) at Lal Chowk got a major facelift as the town square has become a popular tourist attraction.
The Jhelum Bund walkway has added options for the city dwellers for an evening outing while electric buses and e-rickshaws have been introduced with the aim of combating pollution and providing ease of transportation.
While there were a lot of positives including vast improvement in the general security situation in Kashmir, delay in holding elections to various bodies has drawn criticism from opposition parties.
Assembly elections were last held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014 and are long overdue as four years have passed since the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed by Parliament. The panchayat and local body polls were last held in 2018 and were due in November-December this year. However, these elections have also been deferred without any explanation being offered by the administration.
Although the security situation in the valley improved during the year, terrorists carried out targeted attacks on minority community members and security forces, both off-duty and on-duty.
The year began with terrorists killing four civilians in Dhangri area of Rajouri on January 1 while two more civilians died in the same area in an IED explosion on the same day.
The border districts of Poonch and Rajouri saw some major terrorist attacks this year, in which more than 15 soldiers and six civilians were killed. The attacks took place at Bhatta Durain (April 20), Kesari Hills (May 5) and Dera Ki Gali (December 21).
There were terrorist attacks in Kashmir valley as well. A Colonel, a Major and a Deputy Superintendent of Police were killed in an encounter with terrorists in Kokernag area of Anantnag district. Police Inspector Masroor Ahmad Wani died after being attacked by a terrorist when he was playing cricket at Eidgah ground in Srinagar.
A retired senior superintendent of police was shot dead by terrorists when he was reciting ‘azaan’ inside a mosque in Baramulla district this month.