It finally did happen
The ban on civilian’s to travel on the Baramulla-Udhampur stretch of the arterial Jammu-Srinagar national highway did finally turn into a reality on Sunday. The ban evoked anger and resentment not among the general populace, but those who had come to pay a visit to Kashmir valley as they were left fuming with the decision.
Though the government in the evening claimed that elaborate arrangements were made by the Government for the convenience of the public during the restricted travel period on NH, it claimed the restrictions were ‘successful’ and said that it is committed to ensure least inconvenience to the public.
But given the way this order has been announced and is now being implemented, it gives an impression that the entire exercise has been done in a huff-huff manner. On Sunday when the restrictions were in place the government did provide passes to 493 vehicles to ply on the highway despite restrictions, but this miniscule measure cannot be termed anything but a mere cosmetic measure.
The restrictions affected everybody. Right from Udhumpur to Baramulla and even Kupwara highway link, people witnessed trouble. From daily commuters to casual travelers everyone was subject to frequent harassment and unnecessary delay in proceeding towards their destinations.
Reports of even patients, elderly and even in some cases small kids were disallowed to move on the highway, have been reported and in most of these cases the claims of the administration to have provided for their relief have fallen flat on the ground.
At the end of the day it seems that the highway blockade was a decision taken without any planning as a mere 45 vehicle convoy of the CRPF left Srinagar on Sunday and the entire valley was left panting for such small convoy movement.
The cases of harassment of tourists were also pouring in as despite measures announced by the administration, tourist vehicles were stopped and they too were subject to harassment and delay in their travel. Though some passes were provided to these vehicles at Pantha-Chowk however, the vehicles were stopped on one or the other pretext- that too without a rhyme and a reason.
Kashmir is a tourist place and it was after pretty long time that some tourist arrivals were witnessed during the past few weeks. However, the way the tourist vehicles too were stopped during the restrictions, it gives an impression that tourism trade is being targeted deliberately as such harassment will surely cut short the limited tourist footfall further.
Banning civilian travel on the highway has witnessed opposition by the security establishment as well.
On Saturday when Governor Satya Pal Malik called a high level meeting of the security officials, restrictions for ensuring smooth movement of security force convoys was vehemently opposed by almost all security agencies.
The state police, army, CID and other intelligence agencies were not in favour of the restrictions on the civilian movement on the highway. Even the Governor expressed his displeasure over the order and directed for hassle free movement of the civilians in case of emergencies, but despite this the order has been implemented and executed. Why, perhaps no one knows the answer.