Srinagar, April 10 : The beleaguered people of Kashmir on Wednesday faced yet another day of great despair and fear as the highway ban remained in vogue for the second day after it was started on last Sunday.
This time, however, Srinagar-Baramulla highway was exempted from the travel curbs in the wake of polls taking place in the north Kashmir constituency on April 11.
Witnesses said that authorities enforced strict imposition of the State home department’s order that restricts civilian vehicles from travelling on the highway that is the only surface link connection Kashmir with the rest of the world. The order will remain in vogue till May 31.
The government decided this was necessary after Jaish-e-Muhammad carried out a spectacular attack on the CRPF convoy on February 14 this year leaving 40 CRPF men dead. After the first road closure on April 7, residents reported extreme hardship in transporting products or accessing services including critical health care. The situation was quite similar to April 7 today.
“Most of the roads connecting Srinagar with the Qazigund in Anantnag wore a deserted look and only a handful of vehicles were allowed by the sector magistrates appointed by the government to facilitate travel of vehicles of emergency nature,” said an eye-witness, Abdur Rehman, a resident of Awantipora said.
In a surprising development, a local commuter had to get his right hand stamped by the concerned sector magistrate so that he could travel in his vehicle on the highway. The picture of his stamped hand went viral on social networking sites evoking sharp criticism against the government.
Many residents and travellers expressed similar views. The government has however, asserted that the “schoolchildren, medical patients, government and private employees, as well as other civilians, will not be able to reach their destinations well in time.”
While the authorities have a responsibility to provide security for the population in Kashmir, measures such as closures of a crucial highway that undermine fundamental rights to movement, food, and health, must be narrowly tailored and proportionate to a legitimate aim.
The army has discreetly distanced itself from the government’s decision of highway closure stating that it “wasn’t consulted before the implementation of the order.”
The order has already evoked tremendous criticism from the various quarters including mainstream, separatist camps, traders, lawyers and common masses.(KNO)