Govt Bans Civilian Traffic On Kashmir Highway for Two Days A Week

JAMMU —The government has banned civilian traffic from dawn to dusk for two days every week until May 31 on the 270-km National Highway stretch from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in North Kashmir to facilitate the movement of security convoys.

The measure has been adopted to facilitate unhindered movement of security forces’ convoys to eliminate the possibility of fidayeen attacks during the ongoing poll process, said an official.

The ban on civilian traffic would be effective from Baramulla to Udhampur through Srinagar, Qazigund, Jawahar-Tunnel, Banihal and Ramban, the notification said.

The ban would be in force on the two days from 4 am to 5 pm, it added.

In case of any emergency requiring passage of civilian vehicle, the police and administrative officials would take appropriate decisions in line with the provisions of movement of civilian traffic during curfews, the notification said.

During his visit to Kashmir after the February 14 Pulwama attack targeting a CRPF convoy which had left 40 security personnel dead, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that no civilian traffic would be allowed during the movement of the paramilitary forces.

The restriction on civilian traffic on the highway was announced two days after state police chief Dilbag Singh Monday said a study group has been set up to suggest steps to strengthen the security along the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar highway following the Pulwama attack. 

Meanwhile the order has evoked sharp 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.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday termed the decision to close key Kashmir highway for civilian traffic akin to ‘Martial Law’.

Taking to microblogging site Twitter Mehbooba wrote: “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.”

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Former IAS officer and now a politician Shah termed the decsion as an Israeli tactic.

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“Policies imported from Israel will turn Kashmir into Palestine,” he tweeted. 

“Another 1st for the Modi government after the 1st ever delayed assembly election now this shocker – never before in 30 years has the national highway ever been closed for civilian traffic like this. It’s a glaring admission of failure to manage the internal security of J&K,” said Omar Abdullah, another former Chief Minister.

“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 & on. There has to be a better, less people unfriendly way of protecting forces using the highway,” he wrote.

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Peoples Conference chairman Sajad 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.

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.

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