National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Saturday said he is “fully convinced” that a majority of Kashmiris support the abrogation of Article 370, and affirmed that restrictions in Kashmir were to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists.
Article 370 “was not a special status. It was a special discrimination. With its abrogation, we have brought Kashmiris on a par with Indians,” he said.
In an interaction with a select group of Indian and foreign journalists, Mr. Doval said restrictions had anyway been eased progressively, and only 10 of the 199 police districts in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh still had prohibitory orders, while landlines had been restored fully in all the three areas.
On the political detentions, he said they were preventive in nature and very much allowed under the law, which meant the government was answerable to courts and would have to pay a heavy penalty if it did anything extra-judicial.
Pakistan was bent on creating trouble in Kashmir, and would very much like to see unrest in the Valley, which would add grist to its anti-India propaganda. In a bid to achieve that aim, Pakistan had sent many terrorists into Kashmir with the intent of causing trouble, and to ensure that normalcy was not restored.
“If anybody is interested in restoring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, it is India,” Mr. Doval said. “We will not allow people to become victims of Pakistan’s machinations and its bullets sent across the border. We will do everything in power to protect the people,” he said.
Asked about the alleged human rights abuses by the Army, Mr. Doval pointed out that only the local police and Central paramilitary forces were deployed to maintain law and order. “So, there is no question of atrocities by the Army, whose job is only to fight terrorists.”
He said that according to intelligence reports, some 230 terrorists were recorded in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, some of whom had sneaked in to create trouble, which included intimidating traders and local populace to prevent them from going about their business.
Mr. Doval cited the case of two Punjabi-speaking terrorists whose conversations with their Pakistani handlers were intercepted in which they were reprimanded for not doing their job properly and warned that Pakistan would send them bangles if they didn’t do something quickly.
Thereafter, the two men went to the residence of prominent fruit merchant in Sopore Hamidullah Rather to intimidate him on Friday. Not finding him there, the terrorists shot and injured his 25-year-old son, Mohammad Irshad, in the thigh, and Irshad’s 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter Asma Jaan, who was critical. She would be brought to New Delhi for treatment, he said.
“Terror is the only instrument Pakistan has to create unrest in Kashmir.” Normalcy in Kashmir could be restored if “Pakistan starts behaving” and stopped “indulging in subversive propaganda,” he noted
Asked what India would do if Pakistan continued with its ways, Mr. Doval said “there is a solution to every problem.” He did not elaborate.
Mr. Doval justified the restrictions imposed on mobile phone and Internet services, saying they could easily be used by Pakistan and terrorists for subversive activities, but the denial of these services should not prevent people from going about their lives. “Even before Internet came into our lives, people were going about their lives doing business,” he said, while acknowledging that people were unhappy with these restrictions. “In any society, people always want more than what they have. But to us their life is more important,” he said, adding that 92.5 per cent of the geographical area of Jammu & Kashmir was now without restrictions.
Article 370 was nothing but a millstone round the neck of Kashmir. It was preventing people from having equal rights that other Indians had. For example, it prevented many laws from being applied to Kashmir, such as right to education, women’s rights and minimum wages. Article 370 was only a tool of the political class to make money through corruption. “For the common man there was nothing,” he observed.