KASHMIR - SRINAGAR : A POLICE STATE WITH TULIPS. The government's new era of peace and prosperity is a total, horrible fiction.

Things have been going swimmingly in Jammu and Kashmir ever since Narendra Modi, in August 2019, turned off the Internet, locked up thousands of politicians and academics, and split India's only majority-Muslim state into two federally-run units, or union territories. Just ask the government.

WHERE separatists used to put stones and guns into young people's hands, the prime minister ''replaced them with mobiles and laptops by setting up industry and providing employment'', Amit Shah, the home minister and Mr. Modi's chief lieutenant, told reporters during a recent visit to Srinagar., Kashmir's main city.

Where Kashmiris used to live in fear and penury, chimed in Manoj Sinha, the Delhi appointed governor of the territory, in December, there are now far fewer deaths from terrorism, the press is free and there will soon be elections.

MUCH OF THIS IS UNTRUE, as Kashmiris were reminded in early January, when six civilians, including two children, were killed in attacks on a village in south-western Kashmir. And as Ayub Nadaf is reminded daily.

The 19-year-old has been in jail in Srinagar for almost 16 months without trial after police accused him of being ''complicit'' [ they did not say how ] in the killing of a policeman.

His mother wept as she protested his innocence : ''Ayub is the only child I have.''

Rather than free Kashmir from separatist violence, poverty and corruption, the Modi administration's hardline approach appears to have made its political troubles even more intractable without making the region obviously safer, less wretched or more prosperous.

Working out what to do about India's independent-minded northern corner has been a headache for all India's governments, especially since an outbreak of separatist violence in 1989.

Mr.Modi's tough approach rests upon a two-pronged strategy. To fight terrorism, his government has deployed even more troops in the region - roughly half a million are overseeing a population of 7 million - and intensified surveillance and control of Kashmiris' lives.

To accelerate economic development, the government is meanwhile promoting outside investment, especially by stressing the joys of  Kashmir as a tourist destination. Yet these contradictory measures seem to be cancelling each other out.

This is not reassuring would-be investors. Private investment in Kashmir in 2022 was less than half the level in 2018, according to figures released in December.

''It's still too much a conflict zone for investment to make sense,'' says an academic [ who asked not to be named ] in Srinagar.

The Essay continues. The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


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