In the days since the revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Army has put up and distributed posters in parts of South Kashmir, explaining to the local people the benefits of abrogation of Article 370.
Lt Gen K J S Dhillon, responding to a question about whether the Army was driving the information campaign on its own or if the effort was being directed by the Centre, said at a press conference on September 4: “There is no organized campaign.”
“For the last 30 years, the Army has been involved in Sadbhavana activities, a lot of interaction with opinion-makers, the moulvis, teachers, students, and sarpanches, for the benefit of the area. As also to get from them what is to be done for the benefit of the area’s development,” he said.
In Arihal, Pulwama, locals showed the posters — in Urdu — on the walls of a shopping complex. The posters detailed benefits of the “removal of Article 370 and Article 35A” from the state.
These benefits were mentioned under the categories of health, education, tourism, property rights, and RTI. It also listed the benefits of the extension of Central government schemes such as Ayushman Yojana and initiatives such as mid-day meal.
“Naye coaching centre aur private school banenge. Naye hotel banenge. Markaz ki nigraani mein rehne ka mahaul accha hoga. Zameen ki keemat badhegi (new coaching centers and schools will be opened, new hotels will be constructed and under the Centre’s watch, the quality of life will improve. Also, the cost of real estate will increase),” the poster said.
It also spoke about new factories coming in, and that local people will get jobs. Additionally, women from the state marrying outside will retain rights to their properties, it said.
“Some days after the special status was removed, the Army came and handed these photocopies to us and they also stuck posters to the walls, trying to explain to us why this will be good for us,” Zahoor Ahmad, a shopkeeper at the Arihal crossing, told.
Another local, Ishfaq Feroz, said the forces, while they were distributing posters, said that with the apple crop round the corner, “we will be able to do business freely with other states”.
While most of these posters have been removed by the people, some are still in place on closed shop fronts or vacant buildings.