Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has imposed a ban on civilian traffic on National Highway for two full days every week until May 31. Thus, traffic on the 270-km national highway stretch from Udhampur in Jammu to Baramulla in Kashmir will be affected on every Sunday and Wednesday as it would be used by security convoys. While the decision has been taken in view of the elections, it has been considered “draconian” by almost all the mainstream parties in the Valley.
Peoples Democratic Party chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti reportedly said that the move is likely to create inconvenience to people. She told The Indian Express, “We have only one lifeline and that is this highway. If you close it for civilian traffic for two days in a week you can imagine what would be its consequences. We are living in a democracy, we are not living in a military state. How can they do this?”
The decision also comes in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 as an explosive-laden vehicle rammed into a bus in the convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans, killing 40 security personnel.
Objecting to the move, National Conference vice-president and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah posted on Twitter, “Has anyone in the administration applied their minds before planning to issue this highway closure order? J&K is not Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh where there are alternate routes. Here if you close the national highway you shut down all access to the valley. This is a lifeline.”
The state government had issued a statement earlier which read, “Keeping in view the large movement of security forces on the national highway during the Parliamentary elections and associated possibility of any fidayeen terror attack on security forces’ convoys, the state government has notified specified days in a week for the movement of security forces from Srinagar to Jammu. During these days, no civilian traffic would be allowed on National Highway.”
The order stated that the ban on civilian traffic will be from 4 AM to 5 PM for two days every week. However, in the event of any requirement for local traffic movement for any emergency, the local administration and police would evolve necessary procedures for this as is done during curfew days.