Highway ban: It’s a no-brainer, even ‘Army, CRPF, JKP not in favour’

fpk photo/wasim nabi

After New Delhi was likened with Nazi Germany over its controversial decision to partially ban civilian movement on Highway in Jammu and Kashmir, there’s a growing sense within the security apparatus that the order has been taken in ‘isolation’ and without any consultations.

When extra reinforcement began manning the Highway in Jammu and Kashmir on April 7, many within the security grid derided the “short-sighted” decision. This noiseless retort was reported a day later, when veteran Indian journalist who reported Kashmir in its thickest years of armed conflict took to her twitter handle to voice the anguish.

“The highway ban order was ostensibly passed to help the security forces,” journalist Harinder Baweja tweeted, “but neither the army nor the CRPF, nor the JK police in favour of the two day closure. The army, in fact, said, their convoys would move every day. Bureaucrats in Raj Bhavan, cut off from reality issued order.”

Much of the blame is being put on Governor Satya Pal Malik and his bunch of advisors— some of whom were earlier given prized Kashmir postings at the behest of their celebrated track-record in Maoist heartlands. But ever since Malik was drafted from Bihar and named NN Vohra’s successor, he’s constantly inviting bad press for his controversial decisions.

“Highway isn’t new to attacks in Kashmir,” a senior police officer said. “Militants have been using it as a death trap for long now. Part of it has to do with intelligence failure, like in case of Pulwama. Banning civilian movement is no solution to end such attacks. It’s simply to create a hostage situation in the valley.”

FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi. 

But lately, when Banihal threatened to become another Pulwama, the alerted security grid in Kashmir floated a study group, to give some security “breakthrough” within 48-hours. After some heads rolled, what came out, only drew flak for being “an import of Nazi Germany” in the valley.

The controversial decision taken in the backdrop of the rattling Pulwama and alarming Banihal might be now a familiar story, but many in the security establishment are still calling it a decision taken in absolute haste.

“It seems so ridiculous,” a CRPF officer posted in Srinagar said. “How can you stop people from using a highway and for how long? Moreover, how is it feasible for us too? We would be more vulnerable. Also, what about the manpower, which would be used to man the entire highway on both those days?”

These miffed voices are giving away the mood within the military camps and fortresses, when the ‘security’ spokespersons have either maintained silence, or a statist stance on the ban order.

FPK Photo/Wasim Nabi. 

But this highway curfew has already triggered a wave of uneasiness across the valley. While patients and their attendants were seen taking a long, arduous walk towards health centres on the first day of the highway ban, a doctor from Srinagar had to embark on a bicycle journey to Sopore, for attending to patients stranded on the highway.

The gravity of the situation further came to fore when a groom had to take permission from the authorities in order to reach his bride’s house.

While the decision sent the local unionists into protest mode on Highway, the administration tried to pacify tempers, with DivCom Baseer Khan terming it anything, but a blanket ban—“as students, patients and tourists will be allowed to move on the highway on ban days”.

They even gave out the numbers of around seven magistrates who would be there ‘on the highway’—regulating the movement. But on Sunday, a certain magistrate was caught comfortably seated in his car, while anxious Kashmiris were running helter-skelter on the Highway amid an exclusive day out for the forces’ convoy.

“A convoy can’t be time bound,” said an army official. “It has to ply whenever needed. We don’t need exclusive days for it. It seems this order has been taken out in Delhi without taking in consideration the ground situation in the valley.”

But as voices against the order are getting shriller in New Delhi and Srinagar, there’s a growing feeling within security apparatus that the order has been taken in ‘isolation’ and without any consultations.

“It’s an unwise and a thoughtless idea,” Shekhar Gupta, the seasoned Indian journalist, said. “It will increase alienation without substantively improving security. If terrorists can force you to make such drastic compromises with one bad incident, they will think they’re winning…”

But beyond winning and losing, it’s this mindless modus operandi to create a hostage situation in the valley that is now even forcing the voices within the security apparatus to call it, what it actually is—a ‘no-brainer’!


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