Kashmir has witnessed the worst of lockdowns in the past because of conflict. Ever since COVID-19 knocked our doors, courtesy a mega sports event at Gulmarg and some SP level Sifarshi at Srinagar Airport, people in Kashmir responded to each and every health advisory and administrative guideline in a positive way. Now when the process of unlock has started globally and in India too, Kashmir witnessed some movements of people. Business, markets, offices and other places were thrown open on rotation basis with proper protocol issued by the administration. People went to their offices, shops, and other work places after being continuously under lockdown since August last year but that lasted only for few weeks. Following the administration’s decision to lift the restrictions, the summer capital, Srinagar witnessed some normal traffic and huge rush of people at markets and picnic places; those in power who always love to remain in news felt alienated since they were ignored for some time as people got actively engaged in their daily life. They remained away from media bulletins, live engagements and PR exercises; hardly they got any attention on twitter and other social media platforms. Without any further delay they announced lockdown in parts of Kashmir, citing a spike of COVID cases the reason, which is much less compared to other states of mainland India like Maharashtra, where normal life is returning amidst a high spike. In mid-day, in Pahalgam visitors were warned to vacate the picturesque place within two hours, else their vehicles will be seized. In no time Kashmir was all safe for foreign tourists, as the same administration allows tourists to visit Kashmir from July 14. Allowed Amarnath pilgrimage as per schedule while keeping local religious places shut. This is comparative barring Kashmiris to move out from their homes while allowing outsiders to explore and enjoy the beautiful valley of Kashmir as if Kashmiris are the only causative agents of this virus and outsiders are virus proof. Does virus not affect tourists and pilgrims? This all is happening at a time when Eid is approaching and August 05 is not far. What is the fun of holding the pilgrimage when even the local religious places have been shut needs to be answered?
Focus on maintaining physical distancing, wearing of masks, regular handwashs, coughing etiquettes etc should be the core objective in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question arises why we need a lockdown and is lockdown the solution to contain the pandemic? Surely no. The WHO guidelines suggest that lockdown is needed at a place initially where covid cases are increasing so as to give enough time for health professionals to make all the arrangements to fight the pandemic. It was not a permanent solution. Since we have witnessed a lockdown of around 4 months, it didn’t serve any purpose. Since March, the health infrastructure was not upgraded. Not much oxygen cylinders and ventilators were added to hospitals. Special hospitals were not built The miseries of common people went undermined and the basic issues weren’t addressed at par. Seeing the people outside on roads didn’t go well with some corrupt officials, journos, and some of the health professionals since their deep rooted corruption will come to halt. Speaking from a point of privilege won’t allow them to respect or understand the suffering of common people. They will not feel ashamed while showering accolades on some appointed bureaucrats for erecting irremovable metallic barricades which disrupt the movement of essential and emergency services, which is beyond civic sense. They don’t understand that when you have caged a population for almost eleven months and then lift the restrictions no matter what your intentions are, seeing a rush is normal and it lasts for few days until they feel normal again. At this point of time when Eid is approaching, when our economy is crumbling, when every quarter of life is facing immense hardships, when only encouraging people to go back to their work places can do wonders, the decision of shutting down all businesses is foolish and beyond any common sense. We are not in an Italy type of mode. Our economy can be boosted, thousands who have lost their earning hands since August 05, 2019 can be given an opportunity to earn the livelihood again. It doesn’t need any expertise or logistics even a common sense can work.The problem with our administrators is that they always want to remain both in power and in news and by power they mean a militaristic power. They see each and every problem a law-and-order problem and they enjoy in dealing with the same. They think only a certain section of people sitting on high power chairs have minds and intellect and will always blame and demonise the people for everything as if 80 lakh Kashmiris are fools, insulting and abusing their intelligence. A bureaucrat is not an expert of everything. He can’t frame the policies like how a doctor should treat a Corona patient. Similarly, he can’t make the decisions on lockdown without taking into consideration all the stake holders from business to education to a fruit vendor. Everyone is not government official. Everyone is not as privileged as government employees. This illogical and selective lockdown, primarily targeted at daily earners, business community, self employed people and other marginalized section will not serve any purpose unless people are not encouraged to follow SOPs, not beaten to follow the same. And remember there is a difference between encouraging and beating. Those suffering from mood disorder should introspect and must do away with humiliation, harassments, beatings, toppling of eatables, barging of shops and treating pandemic as law-and-order problem. Mass awareness, compassion and gentleness not mercilessness while dealing with a pandemic will do wonders. Besides focus on maintaining physical distancing, wearing of masks, regular handwashs, coughing etiquettes etc should be the core objective in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
(The author is a student activist, presently president at J&K Students’ Movement .Views are his own) [email protected]