It looks to many as if the Centre is punishing an entire state for Pulwama
No one doubts the paramount importance of national security. But its necessity cannot become an alibi for inconveniencing the people who should benefit first from measures for citizens’ protection. A civilian vehicle penetrated an army convoy and killed above 40 paramilitary personnel on the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla highway near Pulwama on February 14. Although India professedly bombed Jaish-e-Mohammad camps inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in retaliation, there has been no report so far of anyone responsible for the massive intelligence failure within India being penalized. Instead, the administration under the governor in Kashmir has closed for 12 hours this arterial road to all civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays every week till the Lok Sabha elections are over, declaring that this is necessary for the security of poll personnel who will be using it. This has led to widespread resentment, with two former chief ministers from the rival Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference hitting the road in symbolic protest. The disruption to civilian life is serious.
Putting security first does not mean treating people as if it is perpetual wartime, when some rights of movement can be temporarily suspended. It is just the Lok Sabha elections. The decision seems to have two less-than-enigmatic reasons. One, keeping alive the bogey of terror might benefit the ruling dispensation, and two, Delhi is either unable or unwilling to address the failures of those officially tasked with security and is, therefore, passing the buck to the people of the state. Given the present relationship of acute bitterness between Kashmir and the Centre, it is not surprising that the move is being seen as a restraint on Kashmir’s people, a punishment of an entire state by a Centre which is, political leaders suggest, treating it like a colony, not as part of a democracy. The responses may seem over-dramatic, but they reflect the people’s feeling regarding what they see as the Narendra Modi-led government’s arbitrary treatment. The refusal to allow the state to hold its assembly elections, due at the same time as the Lok Sabha polls, has added to the feeling. Again, security was the reason cited, although the Lok Sabha polls are being held. Noticeably, the Modi government is not bothered about logic or even the appearance of fairness. Can it be that angering the people of Jammu and Kashmir, perhaps, is not unintentional?