On the Highway of discontent !

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BY: Mir Ubaid

The panic and ire caused by the banning of civilian vehicular movement on the 270 km highway stretch from Udhampur to Baramullah districts of NH-44 in Kashmir is unprecedented and nothing of this sort has ever happened during the 71 years old history of the state under Indian Administration.

The 3rd April, 2019, official order of home ministry banning civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays from 4:00 am to 5:00 pm for “facilitation of movement of security forces convoys into the valley” is as inexplicable as it can be and plunges an already fragile valley into deep crisis. Education, healthcare, tourism has taken the worst hit of this “Diktat” from New Delhi besides other sectors.

Notwithstanding the implications of this ban which are definitely far and wide, people have already started drawing parallels between the economic strangulation of Gaza and highway ban in Kashmir. Some have not held back from even comparing it to apartheid times in South Africa, while others have gone a step further and dubbed Kashmiris as new Jews of the modern world being prosecuted by new Nazis.

Outrage also poured in when a copy of an official order allowing a local from southern Kashmir to commute on the national highway along with his wedding procession went viral. Furthermore, a doctor peddling a cycle to reach a remote village in such perilous times has evoked widespread condemnation from the local people.

The hard muscular policy of the current government has not yielded any desired outcome and on the contrary, it has only alienated the common Kashmiris. There is a widespread discontent among the masses and orders such as ‘the Highway Ban’ only adds salt to the wounds of the people. Perhaps the time has come for policy-makers in New Delhi to introspect on the strategies that they are adopting. Miscalculations and taking people for granted is the last thing to do in an already fragile ambience.

It is imperative that this ban is revoked immediately and a sensible alternative is found out and put in place to placate the anger in the valley.  Further, the economic and social fallout of any such order need to be properly weighed before inflicting such decisions on the masses of Kashmir.

The writer is Chairman and founder of ‘MARHAM’, a social organization, and can be reached at [email protected]

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