Stop this bullying

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With each passing day the situation in Kashmir seems going from bad to worse. While the BJP government at the Centre is busy with electioneering, its extension here – the Governor’s administration – too has confined itself to meeting the challenge of conducting elections in Kashmir. No wonder other and indeed more pressing problems and concerns of the common people figure nowhere in either of the governments’ priority list. This is amply indicated by the government’s decision to close the national highway from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu region for civilian traffic two days a week so as to facilitate the hassle-free movement of the Army and paramilitary convoys. No matter how one chooses to look at it, this decision has no justification whatsoever when seen against the hardships it is causing to the ordinary people. In plain words as used by the ordinary people to describe the highway ban — it’s like “taking away from the natives of this place their right to travel on their own roads and streets!” This is outright authoritarian and imperialistic if one spares harsher terms that even the mainstream politicians are using for it!

The public anger over government’s decision to close the highway is more than justified. Indeed those who had expected that they too being the people of blood and flesh, with same set of rights as promised by the Constitution to all other people of the country, are clearly feeling cheated now. All they have got until now is just promises and pledges, but when it comes to relating with them and governing them, New Delhi has always preferred and actually used different set of rules and yardsticks. And what complicates their hurt is the fact that Delhi’s duplicity in treating them different is clearly visible now. This discrimination obviously accentuates their belief that they are facing discrimination, which in turn furthers their feelings of anger and alienation. The loud political rhetoric originating from various political and administrative formations notwithstanding, it goes without saying that so far not much has actually been done to address these popular feelings isolation.

By the way, is it possible for the government to issue a similar diktat on the people of Hindi heartland – for Haryana, or UP, or Gujarat?

Accusatory politics aside, one of the major causes for the continuation of problems between the New Delhi and Srinagar has been that people at top have not been able to separate self-seeking political interests from what are, actually, and by all means and counts a humanitarian problems. Instead of meting out “collective punishment” to the people of Kashmir in the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide attack by imposing this highway ban order on them, the government could have invested some creative and imaginative skills to address its concerns of convoy security. It could and would certainly have been done if people of this troubled place were accorded some respect and seen and treated as ‘citizens’ and not the “political other” and “expendables” as seems to be the case — if one is to borrow the verbiage of various mainstream political groups here, who always swear by the Indian Constitution, and are its representatives here. It is actually this discriminatory attitude that has over the years added to the distrust and public anger and alienation here.

Given the nature of situational dynamics in Kashmir, it is essential that those in the forefront start looking at the problems here not only through the lenses and prisms of their selfish politics, but as problems that concern people of flesh and blood. Over-politicization of more or less all spheres of life including even the apolitical ones has already cost this land quite dearly. It is time that this mindless politicking is stopped and some serious and concerted efforts are initiated to calm the tempers of the people here who have been pushed to the proverbial wall. Though not much is being said on record, but in the wake of this highway ban, some very influential people in political and administrative and even the security hierarchy too are now feeling restive about the way New Delhi is conducting itself vis-à-vis Kashmir.

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