Displeasure over restrictions in security review meet
Doda region, other areas of Jammu too badly hit
Fayaz Bukhari/Gopal Sharma
SRINAGAR/JAMMU, Apr 7: For a modest convoy of 45 vehicles of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that plied from Srinagar to Jammu on National Highway (NH-44), lakhs of people from Baramulla to Udhampur remained stranded today with the only surface link to Kashmir remaining out of bounds for civilians on the first day of restrictions while thousands of vehicles remained stranded in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts besides Chenani and Udhampur in Jammu region due to highway restrictions.
The Government this week issued an order for bi-weekly restrictions (Wednesday and Sunday) from dawn to dusk on the movement of civilians for the smooth passage of security force convoys on the National Highway.
A senior official said that 45-vehicle convoy of CRPF plied from Srinagar to Jammu this morning under tight security with all the intersections barricaded by the troops deployed in full strength on the NH-44. They didn’t allow any civilian movement on the Highway except few vehicles with special passes.
The official, however, said that a convoy of 120 vehicles left Jammu for Srinagar this morning and crossed Jawahar Tunnel in the evening after the restrictions time was over.
A senior CRPF official told Excelsior that there was small convoy of the CRPF vehicles that left Srinagar this morning for Jammu and some vehicles were on patrolling duty between Srinagar to Qazigund. “A convoy of over 100 vehicles on way to Srinagar, however, crossed Banihal tunnel in the evening”, he said.
There was no army convoy between Srinagar to Jammu and vice versa today. However, a modest army convoy plied from Baramulla to Srinagar and reached Badami Bagh cantonment at around noon.
The troops last night barricaded all the intersections of the NH-44 with concertina wire and troops were also deployed in strength to implement the order for restricting the civilian movement on the highway to allow smooth passage to security force convoys. Around 100 Magistrates from Baramulla to Udhampur were assigned the job of facilitating movement of people with emergencies.
In South Kashmir, the restrictions were more stringent. The roads leading towards NH-44 were barricaded and no vehicles were allowed to proceed towards the highway. People who are living near NH-44 were allowed to proceed towards their homes not before showing residence proof and other details to the troops. However, they were not allowed to cross or ply on the NH-44.
Even the media persons in Anantnag were not allowed to ply on the highway. However, they were asked to leave their vehicles behind for filming the restrictions on the NH-44.
Abdul Gani Malik, a Sarpanch from Kupwara said that he was under treatment in Chandigarh for three months and was on way home but was not allowed today at Lower Munda. “I was in Chandigarh for treatment for the last three months and reached Jammu last week. I was stuck on the highway for four days. Today, I reached here but the troops have put up barricades at several places and are not allowing me to go home in Kupwara. I want them to let me move ahead so that I can meet my family”, he said.
On Pantha Chowk-Narbal stretch of the highway in Srinagar which passes through most populated area of the NH-44, no civilian traffic was allowed by the security forces and people in these areas were confined to their homes.
Even at majority of the intersections, civilian vehicles were not allowed to ply on the NH-44. “I was on way to Parimpora from Soibugh but was not allowed the cross the Bypass at Parimpora”, said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Soibugh. However, at few intersections like Bemina, Nowgam and Sanat Nagar crossing, the cross was allowed in and out of Srinagar city but no vehicle was allowed to ply on the barricaded highway.
Tourists who were exempted from the highway restrictions had harrowing experience today. Some tourists were not allowed to move on the NH-44. However, those who were allowed on special passes had tough time.
“I was with a group of 18 Thai tourists who were on way to Pahalgam today. Once our 3 cars reached Pantha Chowk, security forces stopped us and checked our cars and then allowed us to proceed on the NH-44. However, we hardly travelled 300 meters and our cars were stopped by security forces and we were sent back twice. Finally we managed to get passes and our cars were stopped more than 50 times between Srinagar and Bijbehara”, said Yakub Dunoo, a tour operator.
An official statement issued here said that as per the reports gathered from the DCs of Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam and Baramulla, special permission passes were given to 128, 210, 45 and 110 vehicles, totaling 493 vehicles, falling in the exempted categories. “Passes were issued in Udhampur and Ramban also. These vehicles were given passes for traveling on the Highway”, the statement said.
Sources said that the bi-weekly restrictions for the smooth movement of security force convoys was vehemently opposed by almost all security agencies during last evening’s security review meeting chaired by Governor SP Malik.
They said that Police, army, CID, IB, majority of the CRPF top officials and local administration were not in favour of the restrictions on the civilian movement on the NH-44. They said that even Governor expressed his displeasure over the order and directed for hassle free movement of the civilians in case of emergencies. “He also said that efforts should be made for hassle free movement of the civilians”, sources said.
Meanwhile, in view of ban on the movement of civilian vehicles on Jammu-Srinagar-National Highway today, thousands of vehicles remained stranded in Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Ramban besides Chenani, Udhampur and Katra while general public had to suffer for long.
Official sources said that at around 3.30 am today, the National Highway authorities cleared landslides at Anokhi Fall near Ramban and there after the Traffic Police authorities allowed movement of over 3000 stranded vehicles in Ramban and Banihal belt. This process was over by 10 am.
But since morning no movement of vehicles from Jammu and Udhampur towards, Chenani-Sudh Mahadev, Latti and Dudu- Basantgarh or Batote, Doda, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Ramban and Banihal side was allowed. The link roads connecting this Highway right from Jammu to Banihal remained sealed and even the senior Police and civil officers were monitoring the implementation of Government order regarding ban on movement of civil vehicles during movement of security forces themselves.
Thousands of light, medium and heavy vehicles including load carriers remained stranded on Batote-Doda-Kishtwar road and other routes in Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar and Udhampur districts. Even Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims remained stranded for long and many missed their chopper ride up to Bhawan and others could not catch train in time.
There was strong resentment against the general public regarding this order of the Government and the people claimed that it has happened for the first time in the history and during last 30 years of militancy in the State. They said even vehicles moving between Jammu-Udhampur and Jammu- Katra routes were not allowed to move since early morning.
The people said that link roads connecting National Highway remained sealed and even the movement up to hospitals etc remained restricted. Massive traffic jams were also created on many routes today. They said it would increase the volume of traffic on highway the next day, resulting in aggravated miseries of the people.
IG Traffic, J&K, Alok Kumar when contacted said that after the highway was cleared at around 3.30 am near Ramban, the movement of stranded vehicles was allowed and all the vehicles were cleared by 10 am. Thereafter, the movement of security forces vehicles was allowed from both the sides. Jammu bound vehicles crossed Jahawar tunnel around 10 am to 11 am while, from Jammu side, the vehicles cleared tunnel at about 2 pm
The police and civil officers were monitoring the movement of the vehicles. The IG Traffic said after 5.30 pm, the movement of civil vehicles in Jammu, Udhampur and Katra was allowed. Later, the vehicles coming from Doda-Kishtwar and Ramban side were also allowed to move. He said public has to bear with the temporary restrictions for some time and moreover, on Sunday there is less traffic on roads. He said in case of medical exigency or other emergencies, the SDM and Traffic Sector Officer can allow movement after verification.