Even after demonetization, Kashmir valley behaved as if the demonetization had happened somewhere else and they have nothing to do with it. There was the complete absence of chaos in the streets of Srinagar that was so visible in other parts of the country.
No long queues were seen outside any ATM. And people were not complaining that they have nothing to eat and nothing to buy. Many of us thought land prices in J&K will go down. But seven years down the line land prices are going up and up and people are unable to afford to buy land.
Two weeks after the demonetization, people started arguing why the move didn’t impact the Valley as such. And soon answers came.
A long spell of strikes and hartals over the years had adapted Kashmiris to some extreme situations and demonetization seemed one of them. Six months preceding demonetization the Valley was on strike and there was little money in circulation. That is why no one was in hurry to deposit the money.
The Valley has been regular to violence. It is an everyday encounter between militants and security forces. In these encounters, the houses get burnt, along with whatever valuables and cash. These encounters are akin to small wars that are taking place in the Valley’s hinterlands. At the same time, search operations and CASO are regular.
All these things make keeping cash at home risky. That is why people prefer depositing cash in the banks even though it is a small amount. The uncertain situation compels people to rely on the banks for cash rather than preferring them to keep them in their homes.
The uncertain situation also forces people to keep grocery stocks for months together. No one knows how the situation changes completely and they will have to stay home for months.
Those days, shopkeepers, grocers, petrol pump owners, vegetable vendors accepted the old notes for weeks together even after they were declared illegal tender. This eased the pressure to a large extent and no queues were seen outside the ATMs and no chaos in the banks.
Also around Rs 14000 crore were deposited in banks in J&K after the note ban and it happened smoothly without any panic. Note ban broke a myth peddled by various BJP leaders and the Union Ministers that there is black money stashed all across Kashmir, which is responsible for prolonged protests and a surge in militancy.
One of the overriding rationales of the demonetization was that it will deal a mortal blow to terrorism and bring peace to Kashmir. After demonetization, Kashmir was cited as one of the raison d'être for the move. That it ended circulation of black money in the Valley, that it will bring peace in the Valley.
"Earlier, there were rates: Rs 500 for stone pelting (on security forces in Kashmir) and Rs 1,000 for doing something else. PM has brought terror funding to zero," the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said at an event in New Delhi soon after the demonetization. "In the last few days after PM's daring move there hasn't been stone-pelting on security forces. I congratulate PM for it”.
In August 2017 the then Union finance minister Arun Jaitley claimed demonetisation left separatists in Jammu and Kashmir “fund starved”. He said this had greatly reduced the number of protesters taking part in stone-pelting in the Valley. “Stone pelters used to gather in thousands on the streets of Kashmir before demonetisation was announced, but now not even 25 come together for such agitations,” he had said.
Even when on August 5, 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government abrogated Constitutional provisions under Article 370 and Article 35A, the Home minister Amit Shah claimed that the effective revocation of these Articles would bring peace to the powderkeg region.
Has it brought peace to the region? Data shows that this year October was the “bloodiest” month as it witnessed 45 killings included 20 militants, 13 civilians, and 12 security forces.
According to a report, the number of civilians who died in October 2021 was the fourth-highest for any month since 2012. Also, there were 25 incidents of killings in October 2021, again the fourth-highest for any month since 2012. The killings of migrant labourers and a Kashmiri pandit chemist forced thousands of migrant labourers to leave the Valley.
The government has sent another 55 companies of the paramilitary forces to guard the streets of Kashmir. Border Security Force (BSF) is back in the Valley. The bunkers are back in Srinagar and the Poonch district of Jammu has witnessed one of the longest militant operations in the past 30 years in which around nine Army soldiers were killed with no trace of militants.
Demonetization, however, proved one thing wrong that Kashmiris keep cash in their homes. No one does so in the Valley. They keep whatever cash they have in the banks. And sit hamamas to kill the chill.