A terrible decision
There is a whole host of implications and reasons to criticise the Central government's move to ban civilian traffic movement on the nearly 300 km-stretch from Udhampur to Baramulla districts of National Highway 44 in Kashmir from 4 am to 5 pm every Sunday and Wednesday till May 31. A massive contingent of forces in small units have been deployed along the highway to enforce the ban. This decision is explained to be with the purpose of facilitating the movement of army and paramilitary convoys (they could have been airlifted) into Kashmir valley so as to ensure smooth conduct of the approaching general elections. This highway is the only stretch of road that connects Kashmir valley to mainland India. Naturally, this leads to significant disruption in the life of a common Kashmiri and also of every other civilian that would travel on that road. The plight of the local people is more serious as it covers a range of genuine situations such as medical patients, school children, traders and business owners, farmers and horticulturists, regular employees and even drivers of public transport.
Even before this highway ban draws criticism regarding its various impacts (which have already started to show since Sunday), a more legitimate and obvious question that must be raised is that why is there just one real connecting channel to India's most strategic location. Kashmir is not a region to quarantine for its volatility for which successive Union governments have been responsible. As resolution of a dispute can have more than one ways, a territory can be brought closer by more ways than one. It stands obvious and emphasised that capitalising a situation for the gain of predominant politics takes a heavy toll on the common man. Apart from the disruption of day-to-day life of the common civilian, the economic impact of this ill-thought and senseless order on the region at large is a serious one. Kashmir was in the process of recovering from the losses from prolonged shut-down during the uprising following militant Burhan Wani's elimination in July 2016 , and the massive floods that ravaged the region in September 2014. As trade will suffer massively, the regional economy is bound to take a hit in this election-centric politics. This short-term preventive measure will only add to the long-term detriment the Indian state has fomented in Kashmir.