NEW DELHI: The curbs on free movement of people and communications in Jammu and Kashmir were necessary to prevent an outbreak of violence sought to be instigated by mischief-mongers and would be lifted in due time based on assessment of the local administration, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
“If the trade-off is between inconvenience and loss of life, if the trade-off is between peddling fake news leading to loss of life and people’s inconvenience, what should we choose?” asked the officer. He pointed out that there were mischievous elements who did not want normalcy in the state after it lost its special status under Article 370, and the government was only taking precautionary measures to ensure that such elements did not get a free hand.
However, the officer added that the administration is mindful of the difficulties being faced by people and trying to minimise the inconvenience. He recalled the relaxations made in curfew for Friday prayers and on the eve of Eid. Besides, restrictions had been virtually withdrawn for all 10 districts of Jammu region and measures were being taken to relax the curbs from time to time in the Valley, depending on the assessment of the local administration,” the official said.
Asked specifically about the detention of political leaders like former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, the officer said a decision on their release would be taken by the J&K administration as and when the ground situation permits.
The official said this was not the first time restrictions were imposed in Jammu and Kashmir and a similar situation had existed in 2016, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. The separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference calls ‘hartals’ for weeks.
“Restrictions have always been there in Valley. This is not that the restrictions were imposed for the first time. Hurriyat leaders have called ‘hartals’ for weeks together. Every other day, they call ‘hartals’.
“This time the state administration has taken preemptive steps. Minimum violence and loss of lives. This is an extra-ordinary situation,” the official explained.
Steps have been taken so that there is minimum inconvenience to people, that include ease of travel to hospitals, opening of markets and distribution of food at doorsteps.
“The whole effort is to bring normalcy as early as possible. However, any law and order decision should be best left to the local administration,” the official said.
On the proposed visit of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to Kashmir Valley, the official said the Jammu and Kashmir administration will take a call on his visit as per the ground situation.
The official also dismissed the suggestion that this was the first time a state has been converted into a Union Territory, saying Mizoram was part of a state (Assam) and it was first made a UT and then converted into a full state.
Asked about the action taken against some Twitter handles which have been allegedly spreading anti-India content on Kashmir, the official said no body will be allowed to have a free-run to spread fake news.
“We are taking action on whatever comes in our way,” he said.