Srinagar: The first day of ban on civilian traffic on Kashmir highway on Sunday saw hundreds of distraught commuters urging policemen and army soldiers holding rifles and lathis to allow them to move on the road.
A heavy contingent of forces in small groups have been deployed on 300km Baramulla-Jammu highway to impose ban on civilian traffic today. The road appeared empty except for uniformed personnel manning intersections. Junctures and link roads connecting to interiors were barricaded with spools of razor wires laid across the road blocking the entrance.
The government has banned civilian traffic and allowed only government forces convoy to ply on the highway for two days in a week. A bunch of government officers have been deployed as magistrates on the highway for regulating the traffic and granting exemptions for emergency cases.
The entry and exit points on the highway have been sealed and razor wires have been laid at intersections to prevent entry of civilian traffic on the road.
The prohibitory order has come under sharp criticism from both pro-India mainstream and separatists demanding the order be withdrawn. The first day of the ban saw National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party holding separate protests on the highway.
NC president Farooq Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti alongwith their workers, respetively, protested against the ban on civilian traffic on the highway. While Abdullah called the ban “dictatorial”, his arch rival Mufti asked people to defy the highway ban.
The ban drew outrage on social media platforms with netizens sharing photos of the highway. Many drew comparison of the ban order with German government forbidding Jews from using pathways and streets in Poland from 9pm to 5am in 1939. They juxtaposed the two ban orders and it went viral on social media platforms.
“Today, on the first day of J&K lockdown on NH 44 from Udhampur to Baramulla, recalling a precedent from Hitler’s Poland,” tweeted senior journalist Nirupama Subramanian.