The government cannot both deny knowledge about curbs in J&K and at the same time justify them.

The government looking to lift the travel advisory for tourists soon, a decision that was taken at an official meeting headed by the governor in Srinagar yesterday, is yet another indication of the callous manner in which the attempts to bring back normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, after the lockdown ever since the state’s special status was abrogated and the state divided into two Union Territories on August 5, are being made. Like the case of allowing delegations of political parties to meet their detained top leaders instead of releasing the incarcerated politicians, it is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Removing travel advisories to facilitate tourism is meaningless at a time when the Valley is reeling under partial restrictions on movement, an absolute curb on communication channels and a civil curfew.

The priority should have been bringing back normalcy in the lives of the people, which cannot simply be achieved by announcing the opening of schools, where the attendance remains thin because of both the civil disobedience by the public and the security concerns of the parents. The problem, however, appears to be not just the lack of application of mind in finding solutions but also a delusional assessment of the existing reality in the state, particularly the Valley which is in distress mode, despite the present calm, at present. Soon after union home minister Amit Shah’s rebuff to concerns of continuing communication curbs in the state with the simple statement that the restrictions were only a figment of imagination of those opposing the government move on Kashmir, the central government’s response to an RTI petition was denial of knowledge of any such curbs. The ground reality today is that communication is partially or fully impacted in the entire state. While internet has been partially banned in most parts of Jammu region, in Kashmir and several other districts of Jammu are deprived of the facility. The mobile phones are completely shut in the Valley and some landline facilities were restored a month after the lockdown began. Thousands of arrests have been made since the move of the Centre to change the state’s political entity.

If the RTI response that Centre is innocent about the existing situation with respect to communication lockdown in the state is to be taken on its face value, either the government is lying or it has been kept in the dark. If it is the latter case, a relevant question then is who has imposed these curbs and why. Is it the state government, which is already under President’s Rule. In any state under President’s Rule, the functioning of the state government is carried out under the direct command of the central government through the state’s governor. The Centre is not only apprised about each and every action of the governor’s administration, the decisions and actions made by the latter have the sanction of the Centre.

Is this ignorance then really the case of incompetence of the central government or is it simply a case of misleading the public? Both are grave concerns. The government is not only subjecting the people of Jammu and Kashmir to severe curtailment of civil liberties and depriving them of basic fundamental rights, it is also unable to offer an explanation why this excessive action has been deemed necessary for a prolonged period of over two months, with no signs of things easing. It is also more than amusing that while the Centre is feigning ignorance about communication curbs or detention of political leaders of almost all political parties in the state, it is also at the same time justifying the curbs. Moreover, it is also amusing to know that no paper work has been done in the union home ministry on imposition of restrictions and imposition of communication curbs. The public can easily use its sense of prudence to assess whether such a contradiction is satisfying and whether it is indeed good for democracy.