Traffic barred from J&K national highway 2 days a week, sparks uproar
In the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide bombing that left 40 CRPF personnel killed, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday decided to halt civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway for two days in a week.
The order attracted severe criticism from the people and political leaders, including the BJP, which termed it against civilians as this was the first time that the government had decided to stop civilian traffic on the national highway.
The government spokesperson said in view of the large movement of security forces on the national highway during the Lok Sabha elections and the associated possibility of any fidayeen attack on security forces’ convoys, the state government had notified specific days in a week for the movement of forces between Srinagar and Jammu.
“During these days, no civilian traffic would be allowed on the National Highway. To mitigate the inconvenience to civilians by this move, the government has notified two dedicated days in a week (Sunday & Wednesday) exclusively for the movement of Security Forces Convoys and there would be a complete ban on civilian traffic on the National Highway during these two days from 4 am to 5 pm,” reads the order.
According to the new order, the prohibition would be from Baramulla through Srinagar, Qazigund, Jawahar-Tunnel, Banihal, and Ramban till Udhampur.
“In the event of any requirement for local traffic movement for any emergency or for other purposes, the local administration and police would evolve necessary procedures for this as is done during curfew days. These restrictions would remain in force till 31st May 2019,” the order said.
Former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah called the move unfriendly and said, “Patients will not be able to reach hospitals, students will be deprived access to schools, employees won’t be able to reach work and the list goes on and on. There has to be a better, less people unfriendly way of protecting forces using the highway.”
He said security forces should use special trains for travel, “I’ve made this suggestion before and in the light of today’s highway closure order, I feel the need to repeat it - why can’t the forces travel between Banihal and Baramulla by special trains? Quicker, safer and more comfortable for the security forces,” Omar tweeted.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir called it an inhuman decision by the government. “Stopping the entire traffic on the national highway is a big human rights violation. The civilians will face a lot of trouble and the government should rethink this as it will lead to a crisis.”
Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Last I checked, we were a democracy. But this sounds like a diktat of martial law. After bringing Kashmir to the brink, the administration is adamant on ensuring collective punishment for Kashmiris.”
BJP state spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the order was against civilians. “This is a completely unjustified order aimed to create problems for civilians and should be revoked. Stopping movement of civilian traffic on the national highway is unthinkable and should be revoked.” He said it was true there were security concerns but not at the cost of civilians.
PDP youth president Waheed ur Rehman Parra said this order would only create problems for civilians. “The order should be revoked as it has been devised in haste.”
Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Lone reacting to the order said that in the civilized world military needs would always be subservient to civil needs. “This certainly will be a first of its kind order and will have disastrous social political and economic consequences. The government should not carve a military identity for itself,” he said.