Anantnag: The new Srinagar-Qazigund stretch of the national highway has provided commuters no respite from the enforced traffic halts and rebukes by army soldiers, whenever there is any kind of army movement on the road.
As per local sources, the army has continued with its practice of halting traffic during convoy movements – despite a wider and better road providing ample space for their vehicles and the general traffic to move in tandem.
The soldiers particularly bring the traffic to a halt at places where link roads merge into the highway.
“It’s a daily routine. Traffic is stopped to allow smooth movement of their vehicles, while the common man – travelling to offices, schools, colleges, hospitals and to home – is subjected to inconvenience,” said a taxi driver who travels on the road on daily basis.
Other people Kashmir Reader talked to said that the soldiers make no distinction between public transport, private vehicles, and emergency services.
“Everyone has to wait for the convoy to pass, regardless of how short of time he is,” a commuter said, adding that the new highway has been turned into a fortress with overwhelming presence of government forces along it.
The commuters alleged that the army men entrusted with halting the traffic do not tolerate any questioning.
“The moment you open your mouth, they start abusing and harassing you, while they have their hands on the triggers of their guns,” a commuter said. “The abuses are coupled with looks that remind us that we can get shot as well.”
Such complaints of halts and abuses are received by this newspaper on a daily basis by commuters travelling on the stretch.
An army source told Kashmir Reader that there are strict guidelines for the army men to not put the general public to inconvenience during convoy movements.
“It’s a matter of concern if the guidelines are not being followed and if people are being harassed,” the army source said.
Kashmir Reader tried getting a quote on the issue from IG Traffic, Basant Rath. He refused to talk regarding this.
Srinagar-based army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia insisted that movement of army convoys was being regulated in a well-coordinated manner.
“The convoy movement is regulated in a coordinated manner as per procedure, to ensure that there is no inconvenience to the local population,” Kalia said.