August 5 marks the first anniversary of three distinct, radical and game-changing decisions impacting the disputed state of J&K. These were the derogation—because technically it is still on the books—of Article 370; the abrogation of Article 35A; and the dismantling of the state of J&K. All three steps were taken without any reference to the people of the state or any discussion in Parliament. Yet, they were done with consultation enough to ensure legal validity while circumventing the truth, a manipulative technique at which New Delhi is very proficient.
The government’s basis of support was the ruling BJP’s visceral understanding of vast swathes of populist (as opposed to discerning) India and its calculated use of muscle. In the latter category of instrumentation was the disinformation campaign by the martial command and control of Kashmir. It was an unprecedented psychological operation designed to cause confusion, provoke crowd panic and feelings of imminent calamity, including “terrorist” attacks, communal unrest or even war. It sent Hindu pilgrims, tourists and non-Kashmiri daily-wage labourers scurrying home in confusion and fear. Ladakh and Jammu too were subjected to such disinformation, but the focus of the actions was on slurring Kashmir, which has been under a year-long lockdown since, with occasional letups to allow the argument that the restraints have not been unbroken.