Highway Ban in Kashmir: Reminds Us Of Colonial Period in Sub Continent: Opinion

Yet again India has showered its love for Kashmiris and this time in a quite unique way. It offers a scene of movies portraying the travel of refugees as the central government has passed an order proving that Kashmiris are integral to India only on papers and in press statements.

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This time the “Authorities” passed an order, “ban on civilian traffic on Srinagar–Jammu National Highway for two days in a week”, and justified this order very cagily “for the safe passage of Indian security forces convoys”.

The order follows the Feb 14 suicide attack on a paramilitary convoy that killed around 40 soldiers. So after passing this order, On 7th April 2019, this order was officially enforced in the valley.

Without thinking about its impact and its subsequent consequences the order was issued and enforced so hastily as if ‘ King was exercising authority over subjects, displaying proudly how quick his system works, like the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”. Interestingly, In Kashmir when it comes imposition of any sort of undesirable black laws, administration works like a machine and within no time laws are imposed and enforced. It’s not a new thing for Kashmiris, laws are formed, imposed, people adapt, and life goes on. For us, this order was quite surprising. I am sure not only for me but almost all of us here living in any corner of the valley.

But what surprises more is the fact that if you are planning to Marry on Wednesday and Sunday then you should leave this idea because in order to marry on these two days you have to go for legal documentation. You would be issued a pass then only you can travel. Isn’t it surreal as mostly in a month 10 days we go through strikes,10 days bad weather and rest 10 days we come across Wednesday and Sunday, and 3-4 days legal documentation for approval of pass, so people like me (lethargic) call it off “ kus tavan veyn che sarkaree daftarn chakar karun khandra bapat” (How curseworthy**, now even for  marriage we need to visit government offices for permission).

There is a special criterion mentioned in that order which reads as “the people in need of medical attention, Government employees, Students and among others would be allowed to travel on the highway after security verification.

It simply means that from now on Sunday and Wednesday no matter who you are, what problem you are going through, all you have to do is that in order to travel on these two days you have to go through a legal procedure of an approval, like (Apney he riyasat mein Anjaan musafir – A Stranger in one’s own country).

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The highway ban has already consumed a cancer patient and the video is viral on SM. Ambulances and other emergency movements too are facing tough times. But Some Delhi based journalist has landed in Kashmir to bail the Indian state from this barbaric ban by posing it sane and normal. This ban exposes vincibility  – it means that neither the Army nor the government has any concrete or tangible solutions to prevent Pulwama like attacks.

General Bipin Rawat superceded two Generals with the reasoning that he has more ground knowledge than them, especially in the context of J&k – but this ban has laid actuality bare. The Ban is beyond imagination. Whole 10 million population asked to be off, What sort of mindset is it? It has only happened in Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa. One has to seek permission to walk on his own roads. By banning the walk on our own roads, traffic Movement, How will the patients reach hospitals? How will students reach their respective educational institutions? How will the office goers reach their offices? and how will business go on? It certainly reminds us of the colonial period of the British Empire in the subcontinent.

Banning Traffic Movement on National Highway is certainly an inhumane act and direct attack on the economy and politics of the state. The order has badly affected the business establishments of the valley as the highway gag gives an impression that the valley is a military zone which has drastically affected the inflow of the tourists to the valley and has negatively affected the economy of the state. The Agriculture, horticulture, which are backbones of our economy would be (consider*****/ past/present)  worst hit. The continuous closure is having a disadvantageous  influence on our economy besides fluctuation in rates. Its closure has led to a shortage of livestock and vegetables. It has even led to the cancellation of weddings as the marriage season begins in the region after the winter. Currently, varied competitive and entrance exams are being conducted by Universities and other boards, however, students are facing problems as they are not allowed by army to move on the highway while their convoys move, resulting in an inordinate delay to reach examination centers. Many such cases have been reported so far.

The fat army vehicles are moving without having any issue, while as the common valley residents have to face unprecedented issues. With this draconian order, New Delhi has attempted to add insult to the injuries of local residents. What they say; Wed & Sun is absolutely rubbish, they do the same on the rest of the days. This latest love letter from New Delhi, says they will throttle the jugular vein (Srinagar Jammu Highway) for two days in a week (Wed-Sun). Where will the daily travellers go, especially from emergency to students?. The NH44 Highway is the sole connectivity that connects us with the rest of India, So banning civilian traffic movement itself means that on Wednesday and Sunday, “We (Kashmiris) are not part of India” I guess as far as this order is concerned. Well, it is a big issue and elections are going on as well. Our politicians have to be in the limelight, they have to raise their voices through every medium available.

They need to persuade concerned authorities to cancel this draconian order. Although almost every political party voiced concern about it, yet there is a need to move beyond expressions. One of the students who wanted his name not to be revealed said “This is one among the worst decisions made by the central Government, as it reflects their mentality about Kashmiris. By restricting traffic movement what will they get”? , Attacks, Killings are not new to Kashmir, it is going on from the last two decades and we are accustomed to all this, and now what changes could traffic ban order bring?”, he said. Better is to let people breathe freely. Suppressive policy including curbs, bans etc has never worked in the valley of Kashmir and this order, too, will prove futile.  Even if our legitimate demand would be rejected as is felt, it would be interesting to see how it works, is it going to help them, or will it prevent further attacks, what will be its impact, how they are going to deal with it for a long run?

Nasir Khuehami and Sadaf Aijaz are Journalism Students from North Kashmir’s Bandipora and Kupwara District.