Quite Dialogue

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New Delhi has ordered a ban on prepaid mobile telephony in Jammu and Kashmir citing “serious security concerns”. This comes just after the announcements of intent to resume the stalled dialogue process with the moderate separatists. The right noises made by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during his last visit, about initiating talks and looking for a “unique solution” to Kashmir problem, had raised quite a few hopes among the political leaders as well as the commoner. However, in a fortnight comes the ban on prepaid mobiles. Announcing the ban Chidambaram said, “I have no problem if there are pre-paid connections in the rest of India. But then there is a security situation (in Kashmir).” The ban has dashed the many hopes that had risen after announcements of “quite diplomacy” and “talks with all shades of opinion unconditionally” made by Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently. This reinforces the views, most prevalent in the valley, that New Delhi only sees Kashmir through security prism only. Every decision be it the Mughal road, shifting of children’s hospital to Badamibagh, allowing mobile telephony or the internet services were taken only after long delays caused by the security officials in giving their go-ahead. Not surprisingly, J&K has the highest police to population ratio, which is just over eight times than all India average. This is in the face of huge deployment of central paramilitary forces and army in the state. So, we are back to where we were as far as nurturing any hopes of policy shift in New Delhi regarding Kashmir is concerned. To New Delhi, Kashmir was a security problem and, apparently, it still is. With the security establishment having over-riding say on all policy aspects of Kashmir, sometimes as mundane as a small plot for a children’s hospital inside the ever-expanding Srinagar cantonment, people here expect little to change. The decision to ban prepaid mobiles is seemingly arbitrary as there are, quite a few reported incidents where militants have used mobile phones to attack security forces during the last five years since prepaid mobiles were allowed in Kashmir. The decision apart from having economic implications would disconnect around 40 Lakh people who are using prepaid services of the seven odd telecom companies operating in the valley. And they say we are living in the era of information technology, which has shrunk the world into a global village. The decision conveys keeping Kashmir in a green house of the village.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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