Srinagar, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat started off from his home here to reach a hospital where his daughter is admitted, but cannot find any means of transport to get there due to the ban on civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.
“I have been walking for the past 15 minutes, but there is no public transport in sight. I have to reach JVC hospital (SKIMS Medical College and Hospital, Bemina), where my daughter is admitted,” said Bhat, near Tengpora bridge as he braced himself for another hour of walk.
The government has ordered the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway for all kinds of civilian traffic from Udhampur to Baramulla on every Sunday and Wednesday in order to facilitate movement of large number of security forces for election duty.
Concertina wires and barricades have been put on roads connecting the highway in order to prevent the movement of civilian vehicles. The Army, police and CRPF personnel have been deployed in strength to ensure that the ban in implemented in letter and spirit.
However, the scale of inconvenience caused by the ban order has just started to come to the fore as dozens of people can be seen at each intersection, pleading the security forces to allow them to cross to the other side of the highway.
There were people who had patients in the vehicles and wanted to take them to hospitals or parents accompanying their children on way to tuition ahead of the various competitive exams due next month.
A groom from Anantnag district, who got married in Doda district on other side of the Jawahar Tunnel, had to obtain permission from the authorities concerned to take his wedding entourage to the bride’s home.
Danish Ali, a resident of New Qazibagh in Anantnag, got the permission for himself and his 12 companions to travel on the highway on Saturday and Sunday, but only after the entourage was put to proper frisking and security check.
Pained by the scenes, a urologist decided to cycle his way to his hospital instead of travelling in an ambulance, which have been exempted from this ban order.
“I decided to use the cycle so that I can feel the pain of the people, what they are going through because of this order. I am not going to get into arguments with anyone if I am stopped. I will change my way and pedal on,” Dr Umar said.
Umar said roads were the lifeline of any place and shutting them down meant shutting down the city, state or the country.
Politicians were quick to lambast the ban order, with former chief minister Omar Abdullah terming it mindless.
“Driving to Uri I’m getting to see first hand the extent of disruption and inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the mindless highway closure order that is in place today,” Abdullah tweeted.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said her party would not allow Kashmir to be turned into an “open air prison”.
“This is Kashmir, not Palestine. We wont allow you to turn our beloved land into an open air prison. ‘Jis Kashmir ko khoon say seencha, woh Kashmir humara hai’ (The Kashmir we have nourished by our blood, is ours),” Mufti tweeted.
Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone said the highway ban was turning into a “humanitarian disaster”.
“Flooded will (with) calls from across the state. People in dire need to travel in order to tend to their day to day needs of survival stuck in a state of helplessness. @jandkgovernor urgently needs to scrap the inhuman order,” Lone tweeted.
Several PDP leaders, led by former MLA Sonawar Mohammad Ashraf Mir, tried to defy the ban order by travelling on the highway, but were stopped by police at the Athwajan crossing.
“People are being harassed…. This is terrorism by the governor’s administration to ban movement of people two days every week,” Mir told reporters. PTI