Editorial : Closed road: Udhampur-Baramulla highway ban

The ban on civilian traffic on the Udhampur-Baramulla highway must be rescinded
The ban on civilian traffic(नागरिक यातायात ) for two days a week on the 271-km stretch(विस्तार/फैलाना) of National Highway 44 between Udhampur in Jammu and Baramulla in Kashmir, which came into force on April 7, is an ill-advised (मूर्ख/अविचारी)move.
The ban(प्रतिबंध/रोक) , which is to last till May 31, is supposedly(माना जाता है कि/अनुमात) to enable(सक्षम ) the orderly conduct(व्यवस्थित रूप से) of the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir, in the light of the tragic(दुखद/भयंकर) February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy on NH 44 at Pulwama, that killed 40 personnel. On Sundays and Wednesdays, between 4 a.m. and 5 p.m., only pre-determined(पूर्व निर्धारित) categories of civilian traffic will be allowed(अनुमति ) on the highway with clearance(निकासी/भुगतान) from the authorities. For the rest of the time, the highway will be given over to themovement(आवाजाही) of troops. As a measure(मात्रा/सीमा) to prevent(प्रतिबंध करना/बाधा डालना) another Pulwama-type attack, this is draconian. NH 44 is the lifeline of the State — it is vital(महत्वपूर्ण/जीवनाधार) to move goods (including perishable agricultural produce), and along it lie many educational and medical institutions. In many cases, avoiding(परहेज/टालना) the stretch would greatly multiply the time and distance between two points. The government is at pains to emphasise(जोर देने/महत्त्व देना) that exceptions are in place for those in medical emergencies(आपात स्थिति), lawyers, doctors, tourists, government employees, students, and so on. But such a system of permits(अनुमति/इजाज़त) and bans militates against the freedom of movement at the heart of a democratic(लोकतांत्रिक ) society. To be sure, even before the ban, civilian traffic has not moved on the highway unfettered by checks. Such is the security challenge in J&K. But to officially segregate(अलग) civilian traffic is to put people’s lives at the mercy of a calendar, and to invite confusion(भ्रम) about the organising principles of Indian troop deployment.
The Pulwama attack was a wake-up call about the security drills in place to prevent terrorist strikes. It demanded an appraisal(मूल्यांकन/अंदाज़), so that the lives of soldiers and civilians alike can be secured(सुरक्षित). To throw civilians out of gear — as they were on the first day of the highway ban, on April 7 — defies logic. It also positions the administration against the people, as has become clear from the political and legal challenges to the traffic restrictions(प्रतिबंध). In a State that is already under President’s Rule, it has pushed the political class and the administration farther apart. The State’s parties such as the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party have led the voices(स्वर) of protest(विरोध). Petitions(याचिका)have been filed in the J&K High Court arguing that the restrictions violate(उल्लंघन) Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution(संविधान). The effect of any response(प्रतिक्रिया ) to the Pulwama attack ought not to be an increased(बढ़ी हुई) alienation(अलगाव की भावना/हस्तांतरण ) that places troops and local people in an us-versus-them timetable. It must, instead, be a doubling up of the security protocol to make life more secure and hassle-free(परेशानी रहित ) for civilians and soldiers alike.

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Designed By : Satnam Gill