The closure of Srinagar-Jammu Highway for public movement on Sundays and Wednesday demonstrates the closed mindset of the people in power. Without caring for the fall out, the government decision lacks the basic humane aspect. It appears that those at the helm of affairs are little concerned about the vast majority of the people who would directly be affected by the ban. The home department of Jammu and Kashmir government issued an order on April 3 saying that no civilian movement would be allowed from 4am to 5pm on every Sunday and Wednesday for two months. The order reads that the restrictions on civilian movement have been put to facilitate smooth movement of armed forces convoys from Baramullah to Jammu. This is for the first time in the past 72 years’ history that common people in the state have been forbidden to using a public highway for the convoy movement. On the face, the decision seems to have been taken after February 14 suicide attack on CRPF convoy in which over 40 men of the force were killed on the highway at Lethpora. There was an aborted attempt of yet another attack on a CRPF convoy on, last week also. This is not for the first time that such attacks have been carried out against armed forces in Kashmir. In the past 33 years of armed struggle, government forces have come under attacks of militants on highways and byways causing huge casualties. But the authorities never put such curbs on civilian movement. The movement of armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir is a regular feature. Their movement is not restricted to Srinagar-Jammu highway only. Armed forces have been deployed in every nook and corner of the valley. They have been stationed deep in far off villages as well. They move daily from one place to another, and are vulnerable to such attacks at any other place. Would that mean that other roads and byways too could be forbidden for common use in case of any such attack in other areas. In that case, the entire Kashmir valley has to be curfewed every hour an armed forces convoy or individual vehicle passes through.
The ban order, in all its manifestation and effects, is a thoughtless creation from unthinking minds. The Srinagar-Jammu highway is not an isolated pathway. It passes through the very heart of the valley connecting hundreds of villages and towns. For being the only surface link of the valley with the rest of the world, it is the busiest road with thousands of vehicles including those with supply stocks passing through every hour. Within the valley, the highway has over 100 crossing points connecting different areas. There are offices, schools, colleges, hospitals and hundreds other work places either right on the highway or near the highway. Blocking it even for an hour could result in worst human crisis. The authorities, who envisaged the highway ban, must be either ignorant of emerging crisis or heartless caring little about the peoples’ sufferings. Governor Satpal Malik should take responsibility for this Tughluk Shahi order and withdraw it immediately. It is not only annoying but also humiliating the people of Kashmir. No administration or government can survive while humiliating and annoying its own people. There is another angle to the story. It exhibits India’s compulsions in Kashmir. No government in the world cages its people for free movement of its forces. It is Israeli way of dealing with issues. Israel has been resorting to similar tactics against Palestinians in Gaza strip. If Kashmir is not India’s Gaza, then India too should not look Kashmir’s Israel.