The state government's decision to ban civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway for two days every week to facilitate movement of forces' convoys came in for severe criticism from state's mainstream political leaders, who called for "immediate review" of the "anti-people" and "undemocratic" decision.
According to an order issued Wednesday by the state homesecretary, no civilian traffic will be allowed to move from Baramulla innorthern Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu region on Sundays and Wednesdays till May31.
The restrictions on civilian traffic on the 271-km-longhighway will remain in force from 4am to 5pm, said the order. The highwaypasses through important towns such as Anantnag, Awantipora, Pampore, Srinagar,Pattan and Baramulla.
REVIEW THIS ORDER: OMAR
Former chief minister and National Conference vice-presidentOmar Abdullah strongly denounced the ban on civilian traffic on the highway andasked the governor Satya Pal Malik to review the order "which will bringmiseries to the people of Kashmir".
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an election rallyin Rafiabad, Baramulla, Omar said: "In the last three decades of militancy, thestate government has never issued such an order despite witnessing some of theworst incidents like a car bomb blast near the state assembly".
"Does this order reflect that Jammu and Kashmir is passingthrough the worst phase?" Omar asked.
He urged the state administration and New Delhi to reviewthis order and "if need arises, manage the movement of security forces throughtrain from Banihal to Baramulla".
HIGHWAY WASN'T CLOSED EVEN DURING KARGIL WAR: FAROOQ
The Srinagar-Jammu highway was not closed even during theKargil 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 makeKashmir a colony of the British?" an anguished Abdullah asked and termed thegovernor Satya Pal Malik led administration's decision as "interference with acitizen's fundamental rights".
"The fundamentalrights of people are being tampered with," Abdullah told PTI.
Such a decision flies in the face of the BJP-led Centralgovernment's assertion that the security situation in the state had improved,he said.
"We brought the state from the 1989 turmoil to 2014 whentourism was booming the state and separatists had become redundant. Look wherewe are now?" asked the National Conference patron, who is contesting the LokSabha elections from Srinagar.
"We have never seen such a situation. Even during Kargil warwhen intelligence reports suggested suicide attackers were roaming, such adecision was never taken," he added.
Those who had passed such orders were acting as a rubberstamp for Delhi and only worsening the life of the people in the state,Abdullah alleged.
"The highway is the lifeline of people. Patients pass(through the highway), marriages take place, tourists come…Those passing suchorders must have surrendered their ability to think before acting," he said.
The decision to block the highway for two days has beentaken to facilitate the unhindered movement of security forces' convoys toeliminate the possibility of fidayeen attacks during the ongoing poll process,the home department order said.
In case of an emergency requiring the passage of a civilianvehicle, police and administrative officials will take appropriate decisions inline with the provisions for movement of civilian traffic during curfews, itadded.
Officials said the notification took the state police bysurprise and, till the last, it was being argued that the decision would not bebeneficial for the state.
ANTI-PEOPLE MOVE: SAJAD
Terming the government's decision to restrict vehicularmovement on Baramulla-Srinagar-Jammu highway as undemocratic and an anti-peoplemove, the Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone Thursday said suchmeasures "would trigger a humanitarian crisis" in Kashmir.
Addressing a series of election meetings in Lolab, Lone saidthe state government should not carve a militaristic identity for itself and"military needs will always have to remain subservient to civilian needs".
"At a time when the state is gripped with an extended senseof alienation and persecution, these measures will further exacerbate thesituation. It has made a mockery of civil liberties and will have a long-termimpact," Lone said.
He said the highway serves as the main communication arteryof the state linking it with rest of the world and imposing restrictions on itwill "severe this link not just physically but emotionally too".
"Such a step has definitely sent out the wrong message andwill create unnecessary inconvenience which will harm both the interests of thegovernment and the people alike," he said.
REVOKE ORDER: BUKHARI
Former finance minister Syed Altaf Bukhari Thursday demandedimmediate revocation of a government order banning civilian traffic on theSrinagar-Jammu highway for two days a week.
Bukhari said that prohibiting civilian traffic "tantamountto confining people of the state to their homes without any reasonablejustification".
"Government wants to enforce curfew for two days a weekwithout bothering about the miseries it can cause to the people," Bukhari saidin a statement.
He said the forces must adopt other means of hassle-freeconvoy movement without putting the civilians to immense inconvenience.
SAFEGUARD INTERESTS OF PEOPLE: TARIGAMI
The government decision banning movement of civilian trafficon the highway for two days every week to facilitate movement of forces must bea security issue but why should a common man be put to avoidable hardships forwhom all this security bandobast is meant, the CPI(M) leader Muhammad YousufTarigami said Thursday.
"What about patients, students, employees, businessmen, andothers who will suffer hugely due to this ban," he said in a statement.
"Do authorities want to say that if a patient is serious,instead of taking him to a hospital, he must be first brought to the districtmagistrate's office for getting a pass to travel on the highway?" Tarigamiasked. "What will be the fate of those patients, who have to be brought fromthe other districts of the Valley and need immediate treatment in hospitals inSrinagar? What kind of logic is this? A patient can't wait till a pass isissued, as in some cases it can prove disastrous and life threatening".
"Similarly, will employees, who have to reach to theiroffices, observe a holiday when there are traffic restrictions on the highway?And what will students do, who have to attend their schools, colleges anduniversities on the day there is ban on movement of traffic on the highway?"
"There must be clarity on these issues and government must find and offer a credible option to it before imposing the ban. The convoy movement timing must be devised in a way so as there is no inconvenience to the general public.
There is a need to fine-tune the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the movement of security forces convoys so that there is no clash with the movement of civilian traffic.
The timing of the security forces' convoy could be fixed such that it is different than the timing when highways and other roads witness peak civilian traffic movement," Tarigami said, adding that the government and its agencies "have to safeguard the interests of the common man in all the situations".
ATTEMPT TO TERRORISE KASHMIRIS: SHAH FAESAL
J&K Peoples Movement president Shah Faesal Thursdaydemanded immediate revocation of the government order banning civilian trafficmovement on the Srinagar-Jammu highway for two days every week.
Addressing a meeting of his party workers at Hanjura, Chrar,he urged the authorities concerned to revoke the ban forthwith or face civildisobedience.
"Such attempts to terrorise Kashmiris will have to be foughtback tooth and nail and no one shall be allowed to deny the right of movementto seven million people," Faesal said.
He regretted that "illogical" policies were being made to"marginalise Kashmiris and push them further to the wall".
He called for exploring "alternate arrangements" formovement of forces' convoys "so that common masses are not put toinconvenience".