By Sunil Garodia
Has the government made a mistake by ordering the opening of educational institutions in J&K first? Consider it as a parent, will you allow your child to go to school when the situation is such that you are not able to go to your office or open your shop? No parent will allow his or her child to be exposed to an unpredictable situation which can turn volatile at any moment. The government should have first allowed shops and offices to open. It should have allowed adults to resume their daily routine. They would have allowed their children to attend school only after they were satisfied that there was no danger on the streets as they were going to the office or moving around freely.
Before attempting any critique of the government policy in the aftermath of the reading down of Article 370, two things need to be recognized: first, this is an extraordinary situation not amenable to everyday solutions. Second, the Kashmir valley was already a pot of conflicting emotions and given to violent protests every day, fueled by Pakistan-backed separatists and infiltrators from across the border. Having said this, extraordinary situations demand extraordinary solutions. If the government had the courage to read down Article 370, it must also have the courage to face the protests. A complete lockdown for nearly 15 days (and only God and Modi-Shah know how many days more) is in no one's interest. In fact, every passing day is inflaming passions further. The government must have had a plan on how it will lift restrictions. But what is happening is a cat and mouse game. Restrictions are eased and protests take place. Restrictions are re-imposed. Till when will this game be played?
If the government will continue to place restrictions just as some protests take place, it will never be able to bring normalcy. There were protests earlier too when Article 370 was in force. They were often violent. The government will have to lift restrictions district-wise starting with Srinagar and perhaps wait a week before taking further decisions. In that week, it will have to tackle the situation with compassion. It will have to be firm, but without force if it is possible. Let them pelt stones. Do not reply with bullets. Use other methods. Make preventive arrests. Do whatever is in your Plan A or Plan B or whatever. But bring normalcy, and fast. Otherwise, the reason for removing the special status will not be fulfilled. Kashmir will still be a disturbed place. It will still not be integrated with India.