Anantnag: Authorities in Kashmir have made life difficult for commuters – over the Amarnath Yatra – by curbing their entry to the ‘highly fortified’ new stretch of the national highway. Roads from some major towns and villages in south Kashmir have been blocked where they exit onto this stretch of the new highway.
Moreover, at least three huge bunkers have come up, overnight, on the Khannabal-Awantipora stretch.
Even after the heavy security arrangements, the government forces are not allowing local vehicles get on the new highway from certain towns and villages, particularly in Anantnag district.
The spots where major curbs have been imposed include Bijbehara, Sursona, Arwini, Tulkhon and some other points along the highway.
Local commuters rue that either they are turned back from the highway or made to wait for more than an hour, before the highway is cleared off Amarnath Yatra vehicles or forces’ convoy.
“Every day I would travel by the new highway, which is close to my home. But now, with the curbs on, I have to travel around 4 kilometres all the way to Sangam, where the old and the new highway merge,” a commuter from Bijbehara said.
He said that even at Sangam, local vehicles are made to wait, endlessly, to clear the way for the Yatra vehicles. To conduct the Yatra smoothly, the authorities are making people’s lives difficult, he said.
A commuter from Sursona village in Anantnag district said, “We are being put to extreme hassle. I used to take the new highway to reach Bijbehara from Sursona every day. But now I have to take the old, congested route to reach there.”
Tourists in private vehicles are also bearing the brunt of these “mindless” curbs on traffic movement. A tourist from Punjab told Kashmir Reader that he was not allowed into Srinagar city by policemen at Pantha Chowk, “mistaking me for a Yatri.”
“I reached Srinagar somehow but on the way back I was not allowed to travel to Pampore, where I am staying at my aunt’s place,” Khizar Ali Khan said.
He said that the policemen insisted that he take the new highway. “But on the new highway they do not allow vehicles from outside to take the sub-routes,” Ali said, adding that he had to travel to Awantipora and then back to Pampore.
Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid dismissed the reports categorically. “No curbs are in place for the locals. The curbs have been put in place to ensure that Yatris do not wander away from their prescribed route,” Vaid said.
He questioned the logic behind stopping the movement of locals. “The locals are not under threat from the militants. Why would we stop them?” Vaid asked.