Situated on the banks of River Jhelum, Baramulla is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Previously known as the gateway of Kashmir, Baramulla welcomes you with an obituary board adorning Maqbool Sherwani’s photo.
In English and Urdu letters, the board praises the Kashmiri Muslim youth and National Conference member who delayed the march of Pakhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan and rebel forces at Baramulla in October 1947 and died, while saving Kashmir.
The board calls Sherwani a patriot of Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s class.
Giving a special mention to Maqbool Sherwani in his speech, Shah also gave a special mention to the communities of Gujjars, Bakarwals/Bakerwals living in the valley.
Prior to his rally in Baramulla Amit Shah announced on Tuesday that J&K’s linguistic minority Paharis too will be getting reservation benefits along with the communities.
Shah took aim at the three families who majorly governed in the Jammu & Kashmir region, the Muftis, Abdullahs and the Gandhis for making a ‘mess of J&K.’
The Union Minister blamed these three families for ‘giving stones in the hands of the valley’s youth,’ adding that the Modi model of governance would transform J&K into a tourist hotspot from a terrorist hotspot.
While only 6 lakh tourists visited the Valley before Bharatiya Janta Party’s governance in J&K, now the toll has boosted to 22 lakh, he emphasized.
Mufti Under House Arrest
Mehbooba Mufti, President of JKPDP tweeted that ‘While HM is going around Kashmir beating drums of normalcy, I am under house arrest for simply wanting to visit Pattan for a worker’s wedding. If an ex CM’s fundamental rights can be suspended so easily, one can’t even imagine the plight of a commoner.’
Mufti further alleged through a series of tweets that in the name of Home Minister’s security in Baramulla, harsh measures were being taken up by the police which resulted in an innocent civilian youth’s death in firing.
She further claimed in her tweets that she was barred from traveling to any part of J&K till the Home Minister was visiting and was only allowed to move out of her house, once the Home Minister departed for New Delhi.
While the Home Minister in his speech spoke about industrialization and expanding on the healthcare infrastructure in the state, he asked the people of the Valley to further the government’s cause in developing Baramulla by coming into the mainstream.
He spoke at length on normalization in the Valley and how youths have now been given mobile phones and laptops to empower them.
The end of terrorism?
Days before Shah’s 3 day visit tour in Jammu & Kashmir, two Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants were killed in an encounter in the Pattan area of Baramulla on Sept 30th.
While terrorism remains a major problem for Baramulla’s residents, one cannot dispute the fact that unlawful detention of local residents occur at unusual interrogation hours by the military.
In May last year the Jammu & Kashmir High Court quashed detention of a Baramulla resident, who was apprehended under the ULA(P) Act and Arms Act at Dangiwacha.
While Baramulla battles enduring terrorism in the area, the locals have additional issues as well to be dealt with.
Protesting women gathered in old town on 1st October, terming the administration’s action to install smart meters in their areas as ‘absurd,’ because the majority of residents fall below the poverty line.
On the other hand, Kashmiri farmers are striving for survival after the Californian walnut took over the Indian markets.
These issues were absent from the Home Minister’s address, as he talked about infrastructure development.
A day before Shah’s visit, a total of 10 members of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other outlawed organizations were designated as terrorists by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Shah was addressing his first ever public rally in the Kashmir valley, not only after the abrogation of the Article 370 in August 2019 but also after the BJP assumed power in May 2014.
As thousands of locals gathered on to hear the Union Minister’s speech, the support for him was quite audible as he spoke about his vision for Baramulla.
While the town hasn’t lost all hope after several years of intense terrorism in the area, what the future holds for the Valley will be determined in the upcoming years, if Shah’s words are put to action.
Akansha Deshmukh is an independent investigative journalist covering serious crime, cyberspace, terrorism and political corruption.
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