Losing The Way In Kashmir

SRINAGAR — The centre’s decision to make the only highway connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world out of bounds for its people two days a week is again an extraordinary step that has been taken as a matter of course. And as with all such extraordinary decisions in recent past, it is unlikely that the public outrage or inconvenience will force the government to rethink it. Ironically and sadly enough, the public expression of anger might only persuade the government to double down on this draconian measure.

One feature of the central and state governments that has appalled Kashmir no end and consequently further alienated them is the immunity they have betrayed against the pain their policies and actions have caused in the state. One almost gets a sense as if enhancing misery of the people is the end of the government actions rather than lessening and resolving them.

The apparent rationale of the highway decision is the security of the  military convoys traveling on the road following the February 14 Pulwama attack and the subsequent abortive bid on a CRPF vehicle near Banihal. The  government response now is to ban the public from the road during the days reserved for convoy movement. At one level, as is also widely agreed now, it is the  admission of the failure of the centre’s Kashmir policy of the past five years.

Far from ushering in peace in the state, the muscular militaristic policy has only worsened the situation. Such is the level of deterioration  that the priority is now to protect the forces from the people which otherwise are supposed to protect and provide security to people in the state. The policy has thus created widest ever gulf between Kashmir and New Delhi and it won’t be easy to bridge it unless the new government at the centre reverses the disastrous policy.

It is hopeless to expect that the NDA  government at its fag end would rethink its approach to Kashmir. In the thick of an all-out election campaign, the pain and alienation caused by its policies in the state are the last things it would like to grapple with. More so, when it galvanises its base by acting  tough and adversarial towards  Kashmir than reconciliatory or for that matter inclined to find a solution to the turmoil in the state.  So, it hardly matters what happens to people when they are not allowed to use a vital road for two days a week. Any way, people haven’t been relevant enough to the New Delhi’s new approach to the state. It also hardly matters if such an approach ends up vexing the problem in the state further. All we can hope is that the new government – even if it belongs to the BJP -understands the folly of the ongoing handling of the state and reviews it. A drastic course-correction is needed if Kashmir situation is going to change for the better.

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