The only solution to "acute crisis" triggered by frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway is to reopen all traditional routes in the state, the chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Friday, and slammed the government authorities for "resorting to mere lip service in these tough times".
Addressing a Friday gathering at Jamia Masjid here, where people in large numbers were present despite snow accumulation and bone-chilling cold, Mirwaiz expressed his anguish and concern over problems being faced by the people due to heavy snowfall in Kashmir in the past two days.
"People are witnessing a complete apathy and callousness of the (government) authorities," he said.
Mirwaiz said that people across Kashmir, regardless of whether they live in towns of villages, are struggling to cope with the fallout of adverse weather conditions for the last two months.
The government authorities are doing nothing except lip-service, he said.
Mirwaiz said somehow people are able to brave lack of electricity and water supplies, which otherwise are basic necessities of life.
"Leave aside hi-tech facilities, no emergency helplines are in place. The recently reported incident of a pregnant woman losing her child and her life and the family struggling to take her body home because of blocked roads is heart-wrenching," he said.
Mirwaiz, a key leader of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), said the highways in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the lifeline of Kashmir, remain blocked after every spell of snow and rains.
"Thousands of men, women and children are left stranded and to fend for themselves without basic amenities or provisions of food, medicines and accommodation," the Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman said.
"Since all other traditional and natural connectivity routes to the outside world have been closed by the authorities, people are left to fend for themselves and face a crisis and shortage of supplies when this route (Srinagar-Jammu highway) gets blocked in winter months due to bad weather. This (crisis) could be avoided by opening up the traditional routes," Mirwaiz said.
He said: "We demand that all traditional routes should be re-opened immediately to facilitate smoother travel and supply of essentials to the Valley. The traditional routes we are talking about are the ones that were operational before 1947 in Jammu region, Kashmir region and Ladakh. People of Kargil have already been protesting for opening of Kargil-Skardu road as they bear the brunt of Srinagar-Leh highway closure and are cut from the rest of the world".
He said overpricing of air tickets is another issue that people are facing and there is no one to look into this "loot".
"I urge the international community to look into the grave issue of closure of all traditional routes of Kashmir. Isn't it a deliberate policy to choke Kashmir and leave people of Kashmir to suffer in bone-chilling cold? Isn't it a deliberate ploy of New Delhi to add to the sufferings of the people and to make them dependent on just one highway when other routes are available but have been closed?"
"It is ironical that a Srinagar to Jammu ticket cost a staggering Rs 40,000 which is less than one-way fare to the New York," he said.
"One also fails to understand that when there is prediction about closure of Srinagar-highway, who allows people to travel on the road. Today, thousands are stranded on the highway and also in Jammu and in New Delhi".
Mirwaiz also expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the recent heavy snowfall and avalanches across Kashmir and extended his condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families.
"With no plan or concern to ameliorate the difficulties and sufferings of the people", Mirwaiz said the "only activity that the state is proactive in is the launch of cordon-and-search operations".
"These operations are meant to kill, maim, terrorise (people) and destroy properties. Even on Friday morning, a CASO was launched in Bandipora, which is highly condemnable," he said.
Mirwaiz appealed to the humanitarian agencies and people concerned with human sufferings to "support and assist those undergoing immense difficulties due to harshest weather conditions and complete apathy of the state".
He said the people of Kashmir have a "tradition and culture to help each other in difficult times, as we saw during the 2014 floods."
"Once again I ask them for help and support people, particularly those in need of help during these trying circumstances," he said.