April 2019 News

Convoy Movement: Outrage In Kashmir Over Highway Closure

4 April 2019
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: Four former chief ministers and host of other political leaders and trade bodies have slammed the Centre's decision to curb civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the critical lifeline for the Kashmir Valley, to secure movement of military convoys. 'The highway was not closed even during the Kargil war when intelligence reports suggested suicide attackers were at large, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah said. 'What is happening for God's sake? Are you trying to make Kashmir a colony of the British?' an anguished Abdullah asked and termed government's decision interference with a citizen's fundamental rights. 'The fundamental rights of people are being tampered with,' Abdullah said. Such a decision flies in the face of the BJP-led Central government's assertion that the security situation in the state had improved, he said. 'We brought the state from the 1989 turmoil to 2014 when tourism was booming the state and separatists had become redundant. Look where we are now?' asked the National Conference patron, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Srinagar. People's Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that the government had not applied its mind before issuing the closure order or bothered to think about the people of Kashmir. The government Wednesday announced ban on civilian traffic from dawn to dusk for two days every week until May 31 on the 270-km National Highway stretch from Baramulla in North Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu to facilitate the movement of security convoys. 'GoI's current approach towards Kashmir has been consistent only when it comes to repression. Suffocate Kashmiris, throw them in jails, deprive them of basic rights and make them suffer. 'They only want Kashmir. Don't give two hoots about what happens to its people (sic),' Mufti tweeted. Omar Abdullah, too in a series of tweets slammed the diktat: 'Has anyone in the administration applied their minds before planning to issue this highway closure order? 'Jammu and Kashmir 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.' 'I've made this suggestion before and in 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.' Another former chief minister and Congress Rajya Sabha leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government 'should work out a more people-friendly strategy than disallowing all civilian traffic for two days in a week'. Terming the government's decision to restrict vehicular movement on Baramulla- Srinagar- Jammu highway as undemocratic and anti-people move, Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone said such measures would trigger humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. Lone said the State Government should not carve a militaristic identity for itself and that military needs will always have to remain subservient to civilian needs'. 'At a time when the state is gripped with an extended sense of alienation and persecution, these measures will further exacerbate the situation. It has made a mockery of civil liberties and will have a long-term impact,' Lone, BJP's key ally and former minister in Kashmir said. He said the highway serves as the main communication artery of the state linking it with rest of the country imposing restrictions on it will severe this link not just physically but emotionally too. 'Such a step has definitely sent out the wrong message and will create unnecessary inconvenience which will harm both the interests of the government and the people alike,' he said. IAS officer-turned-politician, Shah Faesal tweeted: 'Policies imported from Israel will turn Kashmir into Palestine. 'The decision to close national highway to civilian traffic on every Wednesday and Sunday is extremely shocking. @RajnathSingh_in how will the employees attend office? How will patients travel? School children?' The decision was also criticised by senior Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who called the decision 'dictatorial'. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani said, 'curtailing and banning such a basic and fundamental lifeline amounts to gross and unforgivable crime against helpless population'. 'It is better that they close all educational institutions, healthcare system, offices, and universities and seal the residences so that only the armed forces can roam around', Geelani said in a press statement. According to PCC Chief G A Mir, Govt has taken the decision in haste that will prove to be perilous to civilians. 'I emphasise the Govt to revoke the prohibition order forthwith in the larger interest of common people'. 'Do authorities want to say if a patient is serious, instead of taking him to the hospital, he must be first brought to the district magistrate's office for getting a pass to travel on the highway? What will be the fate of those patients, who have to be brought from the other districts of the Valley and need immediate treatment in hospitals in Srinagar? What kind of logic is this? A patient can't wait till a pass is issued, as in some cases it can prove disastrous and life-threatening,' the Communist Party of India-Marxist said in a statement. 'Similarly, will employees, who have to reach to their offices, observe a holiday when there are traffic restrictions on the highway? And what will students do, who have to attend their school, colleges and universities on the day there is a ban on movement of traffic on the highway?, CPI (M) asked. 'This means the government of the day wants to enforce the curfew for two days a week without bothering for the miseries it can cause to people. No civilised society on earth can tolerate this type of dictatorial approach,' former Finance Minister and leading businessman Altaf Bukhari said while urging the governor to review this order in the interest of the public. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has warned the state government that the decision would have disastrous consequences. According an official spokesman, 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. The ban would be in force on the two days from 4 am to 5 pm. 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 government notification said.

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