Two back to back orders issued on July 1 and July 2 have respectively banned the civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway for five hours daily and suspended the train service between Qazigund in the Valley and Banihal in the Jammu division to facilitate Amarnath Yatra. And considering the fact that the yatra lasts for close to two months, the orders have virtually deprived a large section of J&K residents of the right to use the highway and train services during the yatra period. This has created an unprecedented situation where the pilgrimage has far once been privileged over the day to day activities of the people. People have once again been reminded of the highway ban imposed early this year to facilitate the movement of the security forces during the election campaign period. During the time, the people were put to every conceivable inconvenience to facilitate the movement of the security personnel. Though the ban was subsequently revoked, this time a similar and much more pervasive ban has been imposed to facilitate the movement of yatris.
This is such a callous way to dismiss the rights of millions of people in a democracy. In fact, this approach makes the people subservient to anything that the government in its wisdom deems as deserving of more attention. In a democracy the people have to be paramount. But in Kashmir, this understanding has been turned upside down. It is the convenience of the government which is paramount rather than that of the people. And the sad part is that the government has become immune to the public grievances in Kashmir and finds it easier to ride roughshod over their rights than fulfill its responsibility by balancing their interests with that of others.
In case of yatris, the government should have focussed on enhancing the security measures than putting the people to appalling inconvenience. More so, when the yatris have always been welcomed by the local people. Even during the times of unrest when the Kashmir Valley was engulfed by the unprecedented protests Amarnath yatra passed off peacefully. Even though stones and bullets flew around on the streets, the buses carrying pilgrims to the holy cave shrine operated unscathed. Amid the reigning chaos, the people have exhibited concern and empathy for their pilgrim guests and ensured they are spared of the mayhem on the streets. Even in 2008, when the yatra itself became a subject of controversy after a hush-hush transfer of the 100 acres of land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, bringing hundreds of thousands people out on the streets, the pilgrimage itself went smoothly. This was so, even when sometimes the busloads of yatris ran into the agitated gatherings of angry youth. Now to make the same people suffer to facilitate yatra is certain to deeply alienate them. It is therefore incumbent on the Government to rethink its orders banning local people from travel. Sooner it does, the better would be for its image.
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