Kashmir witnessing harsh winter this year has put a question mark on the tall claims of development which the successive regimes have been making all these years.
The biggest question which this winter has brought to fore is that what rulers have done during the past 70-years to keep Kashmir connected with the rest of the country? The 270-km Srinagar-Jammu highway which was projected to be as the "new express highway" remaining closed for the most of January month and commuters spending nights under open sky in biting cold conditions has exposed the people who have ruled the state. One question which everyone is asking what has happened to the highway, which serves as the lifeline for the people of Kashmir. The Valley has been turned into landlocked region as the development is yet to reach Kashmir.
People sitting in New Delhi need to wake up and stop treating Kashmir like a just a piece of land which needs to be controlled. The policy makers need to shift their focus towards development and other issues rather than just concentrating on maintaining law and order in the state. The Srinagar-Jammu highway should have been the priority of the rulers. Unfortunately the development which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initiated across India after taking over the reins of the country did not reach Kashmir. The PM Modi had announced a big financial package for J&K and had directed the people at the helm to ensure that Kashmir witnesses development. But it seems the development has remained confined up to Jammu region and has not crossed the Chennani-Nashri tunnel, which was inaugurated by the PM Modi when PDP-BJP coalition was ruling the state. People sitting in the national capital should sit back and introspect what they are doing?
On one hand the leaders claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India and "no power on earth can snatch it" if it's true then why they have not addressed the issues which touch the skin of a common man in the Valley.
Inclement weather besides blocking the Srinagar-Jammu highway also brought many other shortcomings to fore. It proved that people of Kashmir live in a vulnerable land where anything can happen anytime. If New Delhi wants to address the alienation in Kashmir it has to think about the denizens of this land. Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort during his Independence-Day speech had said that people of Kashmir need to be embraced. Governor Satya Pal Malik recently stated that New Delhi is ready to offer anything to Kashmiri youth but under the ambit of the constitution. He has been reiterating that he has kept the doors of Raj Bhawan open for everyone. He had even asked the separatists to get in touch with him directly if they come across any atrocity on civilians.
Till date many statements have been issued but the ground situation continues to be grim. The fact is that Kashmiris are suffering and they need a respite. They need a proper highway, they need jobs, they need avenues and resources. Statements only cannot help the poor people of Kashmir. Policymakers need to revisit their Kashmir policy. They need to realize that Kashmir is not only about killing militants. Problems in the Valley are complex and it lags far behind on the development front. Construction of Jehangir Chowk flyover in Srinagar city started in 2014. This vital flyover is yet to be completed as the construction company which has been assigned the job to construct it has missed several deadlines. Five years is a longtime to just construct a flyover and it's still incomplete. Is this the development we are talking about? The expansion plan of Srinagar-Jammu highway has turned into a nightmare for the people of Kashmir as they have started believing that they can be taken as hostages within their own land at any point of time. One can only exude hope about that the people who matter give a serious thought to develop Kashmir and really make an attempt to embrace the people of the Valley. People sitting in the national capital are doing a big disservice to the country by not paying any attention towards the problems being confronted by the people of Kashmir. They need to put their act together to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris.
The writer is member of JK Youth Alliance