Another draconian diktat

Kashmir Times. Dated: 7/9/2019 11:54:10 AM

The highway ban to ensure secure passage for Amarnath pilgrims is unjustifiable; security concerns must not result in strict civil rights curbs

The five hour long ban imposed on civilian movement on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway is an unjustifiable and dictatorial move that impacts the population of Kashmir Valley socially, economically and psychologically. The highway ban and a similar ban imposed on movement of trains on a daily basis from 10 AM to 3 PM on the pretext of providing safe passage to the Amarnath pilgrims. Security drills cannot and must not curb the civil liberties of the people. The ban is as draconian as the previous ban imposed during the two-month long period of election campaigning in April-May as it militates against the fundamental rights of the citizens as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The previous ban was imposed thrice a week. The present one is enforced for the entire week. The focus on pilgrimage cannot be at the cost of the basic rights of the Valley's residents, whose participation and contribution in making the yatra a success has been well documented. Amarnath Yatra has been going on for decades and local people have always been part and parcel of making it successful. By causing immense hardships to the people through a dictatorial ban, the government will only end up jeopardizing the safety of the yatris. The ban is a flawed decision because it restricts the fundamental rights of the local population to move freely. Secondly, the ban is causing severe hardships to the public and impacting Kashmir's economy, trade, tourism, education and health-care. The restrictions on plying of civilian vehicles on the 97-km stretch from Qazigund to Nashri on the highway and suspension of train services on Banihal-Qazigund rail section from 10 am to 3 pm for 46 days during the Amarnath Yatra have huge implications on the day to day life of the people, who use the highway not only for travel but also for their daily commuting for work, schooling, health-care and other basic needs. The ban is hugely impacting transporters, students, teachers, patients, schools, tourists and traders. It has specially hit the patients who are unable to reach hospitals and other health care institutions on time, jeopardising their health. The students including small children are facing a grueling time taking longer detours or waiting for the highway ban timing to lift to reach their destinations. The strict imposition of the ban has also invoked serious concerns about health-care which may be delayed in cases of emergency.
It is pertinent to point out that the Jammu-Srinagar highway is the main life-line to the Valley and crucial for the existence of the people. This is the only channel for transporting essential supplies to the Valley and transporting agriculture and horticulture produce to other parts of the country. Not only would such a situation impact the economy, trade and earnings of farmers, it will lead to a major humanitarian crisis with supplies being delayed. As a normal practice, the summer months are extremely crucial for the Valley. This is the time when supplies are doubled up to ensure stock-piling for the winter months in the land-locked Kashmir and for transportation to the even more under-developed Ladakh region. Already because of inclement weather conditions and the previous ban on the highway during election season, these supplies have been severely impacted. This can lead to a serious crisis in the coming months. In view of the undemocratic nature of the ban, the practical difficulties in its implementation, the hardships being caused to the general public and the humanitarian crisis it threatens to cause in Kashmir and Ladakh, the ban needs to be lifted immediately and totally. Alternate means need be found to ensure safety of the Amarnath pilgrims during their transportation without causing hardships to the public and violating their fundamental rights.



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