Srinagar: Normal life was on Sunday affected in the valley due to suspension of civilian traffic on Kashmir-Jammu national highway to allow free and secure movement of security force convoy, badly paralysing movement of people who were undertaking journey on the road.
The highway wore a deserted look with only security forces, state police and Army personnel deployed in strength to prevent people from moving towards the highway though it is said that security force convoy which left Jammu will enter Kashmir only in the afternoon.
However, district authorities have now appointed nodal officers to help people to cross the highway at important places.
Meanwhile, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who was on way to Uri in north Kashmir on Sunday to address a rally, said that he was getting to see firsthand extent of disruption and inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the ‘mindless highway closure order that is in place today’.
The government in an order said that civilian traffic will not be allowed on Kashmir-Jammu national highway for two days — Wednesdays and Sundays — in a week for security reasons between 0400 hrs to 1700 hrs, attracting sever criticism from political parties and general public. Only security force convoys will be allowed on these two days.
Officials said that the entire stretch of highway has been divided into different zones and magistrates along with police have been placed at every zone of the highway to allow people with medical emergency, government employees, tourists, schools busses and election rallies.
Security forces have closed roads connect the highway between Baramulla in north Kashmir and Jammu with other roads with barbed wires to stop civilian vehicles from coming on the national highway, which also connects different districts of the valley with each other. Only security force convoys could be seen plying on the national highway.
“It is really ironic that the highway has been closed for vehicular movement for two days in a week. It is not just a national highway, but also a road which connects all the districts of the valley with each other. How can we commute from one district to another district,” Javeed Saleem, a businessman, told UNI.
He said the road is also used to connect different parts of the same district, including Srinagar. “I live in Natipora, but the place I work is on the other side of Nowgam bypass. So this means I can’t go to my work place for two days in a week,” he said.
Meanwhile, roadside vendors and people, whose shops, including hotels, are along the highway, expressed concern over the ban, claiming that it will badly effect their business. “I have been running a fruit shop at Hyderpora bypass, for many years. But now if I have to close the shop for two days in a week, how can I make by ends meet. The government should revoke the ban on civilian movement,” Shabir Ahmad told UNI.
Similar views were also expressed by workers at ‘Dhabas’ (local restaurants) along the national highway.
Taking to micro-blogging site twitter to express his displeasure over the ban, Mr Abdullah, who is the Vice President of National Conference (NC), wrote, “Driving to Uri I’m getting to see firsthand the extent of disruption & inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the mindless highway closure order that is in place today.”
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan had on Friday said there will be no blanket ban on movement of civilian traffic on the highway. “There are exceptions for medical emergency, government employees, tourists, schools and election rallies,” Mr Khan told reports during a press conference.
However, calling for immediate withdrawal of ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the highway, senior CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Saturday said the explanation of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir that “there will be no blanket ban on movement of civilian traffic on the highway” is unsatisfactory and confusing.
He said the ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the highway twice a week would have serious repercussions. “The Governor Administration must revoke the ban immediately and find an alternative for the safe passage of security forces convoys. The decision must have been taken by the Government as a security issue, but why should be the issues of patients, students, employees, businessmen and others who will suffer hugely due to this ban left unattended?” he said.