Jammu and Kashmir Government imposing restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic for five hours on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway from Pantha Chowk to Nashree to facilitate the movement of Amarnath pilgrims has triggered a row.
All the political parties have cut across the party lines to denounce the five hour restriction on the civilian vehicular movement and on the trains plying between Srinagar to Banihal.
The restrictions on the movement of the civilian vehicles, according to the authorities, have been imposed due to security reasons. There is no doubt about the fact that security of pilgrims cannot be compromised with but along with that the government needs to take a note of the problems being faced by the locals due to the 5-hour restriction decision.
Just few days ago the Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said that it’s the people of the Valley who make the yatra successful. If it’s so, then the government should reconsider its decision to restrict the movement of the civilians on the highway.
The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway has been in news since the beginning of this year. It remained closed for more than thirty days due to the inclement weather conditions in the winter months. The highway closure led to the shortage of essential commodities in the Valley. The highway once again hogged the headlines in February this year after a suicide bomber rammed the explosive laden vehicle with a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel near Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The attack left at least 40 CRPF men dead. It shook the entire security apparatus and stringent measures were put in place to facilitate the movement of the security forces convoy.
In April this year the administration imposed the restrictions on the movement of civilian vehicles from Baramulla to Udhampur twice in a week to pave the way for movement of the convoys of the security forces. The ban was lifted in phased manner and soon after the Lok Sabha elections ended the restrictions were done away with.
Despite the highway ban being lifted the security forces didn’t lower the guard and keep a strict vigil on the highway. After the commencement of the 45-day annual Amarnath Yatra, the authorities issued another order stating that no civilian vehicles would move on the highway from 10 am to 3 pm.
People at the helm believe that the restriction order cannot be compromised with and people would have to bear with the administration till the annual pilgrimage ends. This year Amarnath yatra seems to be just a security related affair and it’s completely different from the past years. Earlier pilgrims used to keep on arriving and leaving the Valley 24×7. Besides paying obeisance at the cave shrine they used to visit different areas and one could see the pilgrims everywhere in Kashmir. This time around the pilgrims are not being allowed to move as per their will and they have been left with no other option other than to follow the instructions.
The annual Amarnath yatra, which used to symbolize the communal harmony has got confined to high security affair. The security plan for the ongoing pilgrimage looks fool proof as the authorities have not left much to the chance. People at the helm seem to be of the opinion that no chances can be taken till the situation returns to normal in South Kashmir, which is considered to be the citadel of the militancy.
The Pulwama attack has changed the security scenario in the Valley and it looks like that nineties have returned. One hopes that situation in Kashmir changes fast and changes for the good so that the people as well as the Amarnath pilgrims could breathe easy.
People at the helm need to bear it in mind that the local populace in Kashmir has been a part and parcel of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage for the past many decades there was time when the Amarnath Yatra was managed by locals only and administration had no role to play in it. May be some fringe elements want to disrupt the annual pilgrimage but maximum people in Kashmir want annual Amarnath pilgrimage to be conducted smoothly as they know that these pilgrims act as brand ambassadors for Kashmir and its people.
The writer is a Former Journalist and member of JK Youth alliance