It is time to open up Kashmir
The security imperative is important, but so are principles of liberty and humanityUpdated: Aug 06, 2019 20:26 IST
Kashmir has been locked up for three days. Movement is severely curtailed. Cable networks are off. Phone lines — both mobiles and landlines — are not operational. And internet services have been suspended. Leaders — including those who have no charges against them, and have pledged allegiance to the Indian constitution — are under detention. There is little information, except through official channels or sporadic satellite broadcasts, from the Valley about developments and the mood of the people.
The government took these steps in the run up to its landmark move in Parliament on Monday, to end the state’s special status and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir. The security imperative was understandable. There were concerns that the announcement could trigger unrest. The valley’s security situation is vulnerable. Militants have often used times of political fragility and churn to spread disaffection and unleash violence. And the threat of Pakistan-based terrorists, or the Pakistan establishment, causing mischief is ever-present in the valley. The caution and preparations on the Indian side had a rationale to it.
But along with security, the Centre must also keep in mind the principles of liberty. and humanity. The civil liberties of Indian citizens in Kashmir today is severely curtailed. This has restricted their ability to live and work freely, or even manage essential supplies. It has also broken off links of Kashmiris outside the Valley with families back home, causing distress. It has affected those in the middle of medical emergencies, family events, including weddings, and affected all dimensions of life. With Eid around the corner, this is also meant to be a moment for families to come together. Except under extraordinary situations, it is important that the State actually enables citizens to live their lives freely. At a time like this, when there is understandable political anxiety in the Valley about its future, it is time for the Centre to lift restrictions, open up communication links, allow Kashmiris to engage with each other inside and outside, and express their views — while keeping up the security vigil.