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PR blessing in hiding in Kashmir

An “awareness” blitz in the Valley to assure residents that they would not be compelled to part with their land

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar

  • Published 11.09.19, 2:46 AM
  • Updated 11.09.19, 2:46 AM
In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, file photo, a paramilitary soldier stands guard during curfew enforced to quell protestors in Srinagar, Kashmir
In this Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, file photo, a paramilitary soldier stands guard during curfew enforced to quell protestors in Srinagar, Kashmir AP

The Jammu and Kashmir government has launched an “awareness” blitz through newspapers in the Valley to assure residents that they would not be compelled to part with their land, releasing in the process advertisements to dailies that faced a squeeze months before the clampdown for once championing the cause of human rights.

The ongoing government clampdown in the Valley had for the first time in memory forced local newspapers to go mute on rights violations or the pain of people. They have been giving wide coverage to official claims about normality and most of them published no editorials or opinion pieces on the situation or on Article 370.

On Tuesday, most local newspapers, including those that faced an ad crunch since February, carried front-page government advertisements. The publicity material highlighted the reasons for revoking the state’s special status and sought to reassure the residents that their interests would not be harmed.

The advertisements claimed that Article 370 and Article 35A were responsible for the backwardness of the state.

“These two articles kept the state isolated and away from the development processes in the country. The special status benefited a select few, e.g. Hurriyat leaders and people working for them,” one advertisement read. The government has not explained how it benefited the separatists.

Another advertisement read: “…Fears of the people about loss of land and properties are not well-founded. In fact, there is no compulsion on anybody to part with his land. Anybody who does not want to sell his land will have full liberty not to do so. There will be no change of ownership due to removal of Article 370.”

Most people in the Valley fear that they would gradually be divested of their land, and outsiders would be brought in to change the demography.

The government claims the rates of land in Jammu and Kashmir have not increased much because of the two articles that would be neutered from October.

Landowners will now benefit from increased prices, apparently because outsiders will be free to buy land here.

A government officer, however, said the Valley had already witnessed what could be the sharpest rise in prices during the past 30 years of militancy.

“Land was the safest bet due to the prevailing uncertainty and most people would sell their jewellery to buy land. Today, the situation is such that most people can’t afford to buy land even on the outskirts because of a massive escalation in the prices,” he said.

The government said the education and health sectors would witness a boom.

“As of now, there is not a single private university currently in J&K. 20,000 students from J&K have to go to other parts of India to study. Now even this sector will boom due to the PPP (Private Public Participation) model in vogue –- no compulsion for students to go outside for education,” the advertisement read.

“Similarly, in health sector, there are no large hospitals in J&K in private sector. So many patients are forced to travel to Chandigarh, Delhi or Mumbai for specialised treatment.”

The ads say large private investment in health and education is expected and world-class health care providers would open their franchises and health centres.

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