THE WORLD has spoken out about the recent revocation of the special status of Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) – but it is voices from within the globe’s largest democracy which resonate the most.
One insightful comment on the issue is provided by The Hindu, the second most-read newspaper after The Times of India, with a daily circulation of nearly 1.5 million copies.
In its opinion piece titled “Narrowing options in Jammu and Kashmir,” the paper argues that “irrespective of claims and counterclaims, the reality is that India’s proud heritage of being one of the leading democracies in the world has taken a beating.”
In a soft toned, but no holds barred critique, it points out that Narendra Modi’s administration has taken a wrong approach in dealing with the repercussions of the withdrawal of Article 370 last August.
The Hindu questions how the authorities could arrange a visit of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Srinagar last month, and then claim that instances of violence were fewer than prior to the revocation announcement.
The opposition describes the invitation as a diplomatic blunder, as the visitors were from far right parties.
The government, instead, should tell “the people of J&K and India, and also the world at large, what plans it has for the period ahead,” said the portal.
Apart from that, it asks New Delhi to respect Kashmir's identity, dispel the perception of colonialization, and restore normalcy by releasing political leaders and their followers.
The Hindu recommends that the government act with magnanimity and understanding when certain countries react adversely to India's actions, especially Turkey and Malaysia.
"Such an attitude does not sit well with India’s hoary traditions and civilisational attributes."
However, author Arundhati Roy, best known for her novel “The God of Small Things”, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997, gave a withering commentary.
When asked by the Democracy Network! what her thoughts about Kashmir are, the New Delhi resident said: "Can you imagine? When has it been done before? Seven million people, communication lockdown? People don’t know whether their children have died, whether they’re alive.
"At night, police and soldiers are going into people’s houses, arresting them. Actually (we) don’t even know the level of horror that has happened.
"And now the fact is that some lines – some phone lines have been restored, but still the internet has not been restored, in a country where, until now, they were boasting about Digital India.
"Everything works on the internet, you know, whether it’s hospitals or medicine supplies… the Kashmiri media is completely censored.
"So, what has happened is now, there is no voice that’s coming out of Kashmir. That’s why I said the silence is the loudest sound.
"Everyone, whether it’s the major politicians, whether it’s boys who throw stones on the street, whether it’s businessmen, lawyers – everyone is in jail, even now."
The News portal said that Kashmir's education sector has been the worst hit by the lockdown, as schools and colleges remain shut and students have lost more than three months’ worth of education.
Business is also affected, as shopkeepers observe a self-imposed shutdown to protest India's move, aside from intermittent episodes of violence.
Workers from outside Kashmir were killed by suspected rebels in the territory last month; while several grenade attacks, one of which killed a non-local civilian in Srinagar, were reported.
The Hindu summarised the situation by saying: "It is obvious by now that the results have not been what the Prime Minister and the Indian government would have hoped for.
"Rather, it is India’s record and image as a democracy that is currently on trial, as much within the country as in the court of world opinion."