Views from Srinagar
Ajaz Ul Haque
A scene from the city this week portrayed us what we are. Animals. Jammed, damned animals thrown open to grunt in frustration and rage. With nowhere to go, we were trapped in a security cover too blind and too dead to treat humans as humans. As the Home Minister of India Rajnath Singh visited the valley, our validity as human souls was suspended. Don’t mind. It was done all in good faith. All for our security (as if we matter).
Any high profile visit demands a high profile security. This much we know and this much we understand. But what pains us is the way we are being dehumanised in the name of security. If you knew you are going to block all roads, why let people come out of their homes to resume a normal day. If all routes are barred, bar them at the beginning.
Either declare a holiday or offer some alternatives. (A shutdown call would have served better.) Sure the state government had an event to manage and given the security scenario they are facing in the valley, they cover all risks leaving nothing to chance. We are not against the unusual security arrangement which is usual in such a situation. But it was not an emergency that erupted catching them unawares. It was a planned, scheduled visit which asked for a planned, scheduled response. Our roads are already choked, you choked them further. Those stuck in the middle of a bridge had river as the only decent escape to fall into.
Pushing the whole law-and-order machinery to one side and leaving the other to dogs is not just a failure, but a deliberate act of mass humiliation for which the state administration owes an apology to people. The least they could do is to make an announcement a day earlier about the routes they are going to close for the day next. That could take some load off and prepare people to opt for options. Deployment is needed, restrictions are a compulsion, but common sense has a share. You can’t put life on pause no matter it costs life itself.
Even ambulances were crushed in a gridlock and they had no route to fly through. VVIPs mean little to someone rushing a pregnant woman to the nearest hospital. Such disregard for human dignity is a privilege we have been enjoying since long. Here a VIP buying bananas from a vendor makes a security spectacle ordinary mortals can only watch from a distance.
There are other decent ways of convincing the Home Minister that Kashmir has changed, that ceasefire has worked, that youth need jobs, that we love peace. You can’t do it by being so merciless to people. This is a medieval practice. How sophisticated your security apparatus, it’s barbaric in spirit. When the king moves, subjects hold their breath lest they trouble the royal majesty. If you mean this, we have nothing to say. But if you think we matter, we deserve a right to breathe.
A right even cattle enjoy. A right that all constitutions guarantee with or without Article 35-A.