From Curfew Passes to Road Pass: A New Journey of Public Hardships
Tanveer Ahmad Khan
Among all the parameters of development maintenance and construction of the road for the public are of paramount. Despite connecting distinct areas, roads make a crucial contribution to the social and economic development of the nation. They open new frontiers of marketing, enhance employment opportunities, improving health and social status, and reinforcing social linkages among diverse communities. They are the sources of interaction and interconnection between the exogenous and endogenous groups. Thus, roads make a network which is crucial in tackling poverty, building social bonds, and promoting overall development. These Roads are the mainstay among all public assets. They diversify our livelihoods. Therefore, the recent banning of civilian vehicular movement on National Highway in the state of Jammu and Kashmir for smooth movement of military convoys shall be having severe consequences upon the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, it is interesting to understand that such a kind of ban on roads is not something that Kashmir as a nation is observing for the first time. Kashmir has a long history of ‘Passes’, ranging from ‘patient passes’ to ‘curfew passes’. Earlier during curfews, it was “curfew passes” that was needed for reaching out to examination centers or for that matter medical checkups. Now it would be “road passes” to reach respective places, which is no different from the previous ones. Curfew Passes were used by the government employees to reach their respective places during curfews, but now road passes become pre-requisites during restrictive days to drive on Highway. It is just one more way of curtailing the free flow of public transport and communication in the name of ensuring security for ‘security’ forces. It seems that Kashmir has been turned into such a test center that even the highway ban order, indicative of the Nazi-era in Poland, appears to be a part of the script to undermine the nationals of this nation.
Making it as a justification of security officials’ safe passage or for that matter executing it with the purpose of expunging the inconvenience of the people, which they suffer during the peak hours every day, seems less plausible reasons and much frailer to placate the reason of common man. If it is about the innocuous passage of convoys, why has such a ban not been there since 1989 when the uprising was at its peak and when confronting the convoys was a normal affair? In fact, the easiest attack then used to be IED blasts to damage the convoys. Why is no such a ban there in North-Eastern India where there are lethal attacks on the security forces? Has this ban any precedent in the counter—Sikh—insurgency, which reached its peak during the rule of Indira Gandhi’s era. Is such a ban therein Afghanistan or for that matter in any other conflict zone, which has seen the most serious attacks on the army movement for the last twenty years? We don’t find any instances or previous examples. So it appears that this sanction is less about the security of officials and their safe passage and more about something else.
If it’s about expunging troublesomeness for the general public, there could have been numerous other ideas which could have worked enough well. If the movement of large vehicles could be implemented during night hours, for the easiness of people, why the convoy can’t be passed during late hours in the night. They can get more hours and much safer passage. And why can’t convoy movement be at least deferred during the peak hours like those in morning and evening when students, tradesmen, and employees join their workplaces and return back to their homes when it’s about subsiding the problems of citizens. It’s all farce. It’s all deceit.
It’s actually less about these and more about something else. It’s intended at conquering the conviction of people and making them feel that they are slaves in the absolute sense of the term. With the clear aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in people. It’s simply to destroy the morale of citizens through tactics that aim to depress their psychological states. This is clearly indirect aggression.
Legalities and philosophies asides, it shall have adversarial effects on the valley. From street vendors to students and from rich to poor, no one shall go unaffected. This decision will accelerate conflict and disintegration, with large unemployment in the conflict-driven state. The most vulnerable section to this governmental decision shall be the outstation citizens of Kashmir who are studying in different states of India or are there for some other purpose. Majority of them can’t effort flights, as the airfare from Delhi to Kashmir is always in flux mode, which is manufactured though. This road bandh will have serious repercussions upon the mental health of the outstation students. The chances of frustration increase during communal tensions. If this road bandh had been in force during the tension fashioned by Pulwama the attack, mere thinking shall be enough to give us goosebumps. Furthermore, it’s really ironic that we pay taxes for the management and construction of roads for our safety and fast communication, but we are deprived of driving on our roads.
The ban should be revoked as soon as possible as it is a matter of connectivity vis-à-vis economy, education, health and overall development of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the region loses 100 million rupees for every day of Hartal. Now the Hartal called by the state itself, twice a week is enough to give us goosebumps. According to the World Bank report, Jammu Kashmir is among the worst in India to do business with, because of the closure of the trade centers. Now the impact of this ban twice a week cannot be even imagined.
This is a serious issue and needs cure at the earliest. The significant role shall be of the Kashmir Trade bodies and the civil society groups, besides the human rights organizations, for the reason that least can be expected in this regard from the mainstream because their remote controlling system itself lies in Delhi, which has imposed the ban.
The author is a Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University, India.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.