Highway closure takes political turn
The closure of the Kashmir highway NH 44 for civilian traffic by state government for two days a week to allow troop movement has become a poll issue in Jammu and Kashmir.
While National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti raised the issue in their election rallies, bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, who launched his political party, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement, said he will seek legal recourse against the matter.
“We are going to challenge this order in the Hon’ble High Court of J&K tomorrow. We could not do it today owing to Friday (prayers). This illogical order banning movement of civilians on National Highway for two days a week is totally against the spirit of Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution,” Faesal said.
Abdullah, while addressing an election rally in Baramulla, lashed out at the central government. The state is currently under President’s rule.
“Today we are not even owners of our own roads. Our national highway will be closed for two days. It is a new order — a Tughlaqi farmaan,” he said.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, too, raised the issue during a public meeting in Baramulla.
“Today Delhi people decided that roads in Kashmir will be closed for Kashmiris for two days in a week. We will not allow it to happen. We will come out on roads like we came out against the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) ban. This dictatorship (tanashahi) won’t work here. Will you decide in Delhi that whether a Kashmiri will walk on Kashmir’s roads ?”
JeI is an Islamic political organisation that was banned by the Centre for five years last month.
A state government notification on Wednesday said that civilian traffic will not be allowed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Sundays and Wednesdays to ensure safe movement of security convoys during the parliamentary elections.
The move comes more than a month after a suicide bombing by a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist on February 14 killed 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the highway at Pulwama in south Kashmir.
The closure, of around 300-350 km of the highway, will directly affect at least seven districts of Kashmir. Hundreds of schools, colleges, banks and hospitals fall on this highway.
Late on Friday, divisional commissioner of Kashmir Baseer Khan attempted to assuage concerns of people saying that there was no blanket ban on the civilian movement on the highway. “There are some exceptions to the ban like medical emergencies, students or business establishments on highway, agriculture land and horticulture orchards on highway or some spontaneous emergencies...,” he said.