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Shutting J&K lifeline: The road to unreason

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Though the Kashmir Valley is often in the world’s focus, geographically it is a relatively tiny place: just about 60 miles by 30 miles. An estimated seven million people are crammed into an area that is hemmed in on all sides by towering mountain ranges.

The Valley’s teeming population, growing at one of the highest rates in the world, has in recent decades meant an unchecked urban sprawl coupled with shrinking farmlands, orchards and pastures. One result is the Valley’s growing dependence on the outside world for food and other essentials. And the only way all that can come in, and local produce and people go out, is through a sole highway — National Highway 44 — that runs from Srinagar down all the way to Kanyakumari.

A surprise administrative decision last week placed severe restrictions on this lifeline, banning all civilian traffic on it for two days a week (Sundays and Wednesdays) till the end of May. The decree banned traffic on this and the connected National Highway 1 from Baramulla to Srinagar, and thereafter all the way down to Qazigund at the end of the Valley. From here the highway climbs across the Pir Panjal range before descending to the Jammu region.

Slamming the gates on the Valley’s sole lifeline left Kashmiris completely aghast. Apart from howls of public protests, several individuals and mainstream political parties immediately sought the high court’s stay on the order, which was denied on account of the administration’s insistence that the measure was absolutely necessary for the movement of military and paramilitary convoys. The aim was to prevent a Pulwama-type suicide........

© Deccan Chronicle