Deaf to protests, govt continues highway ban

Deaf to protests, govt continues highway ban
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‘Permission to travel’ stamped on a person’s arm, condemnations pour in: ‘Bear on your bodies the marks of repression’

Anantnag: Public protests, petitions in High Court, requests by industry bodies, and disagreements voiced by the army notwithstanding, the government of Jammu and Kashmir went ahead with its twice a week highway ban for civilian traffic on Wednesday, leaving the general public helpless.
Since it was announced, the government order to close the highway for civilian vehicles every Wednesday and Sunday has faced severe backlash from across the political divide, as well as from the general public — with some likening Kashmir to Palestine and drawing parallels with Nazi Germany’s diktats in occupied Poland.
Several political parties have also filed petitions in the High Court for revocation of the ban. The High Court, responding to the petitions, has sent notices to the state and the central government.
Also, the army has made sure that their convoys move on other days as well, maintaining that the “two-day convoy” order hampers their operations.
Business and industry organisations have requested the state government to revoke the ban, emphasising that such closure of the valley’s only link with the outside world will wreak havoc on the already dwindling economy of Kashmir.
The government, however, has been adamant. It made sure that the ban was enforced on the scheduled day– Wednesday — today.
Authorities erected barbed wires and barricades at all access points to the NH-44, along its length, not allowing any “unauthorised” civilian traffic to ply the road.
Reports coming in from different places including Qazigund, Vessu, Khannabal, Bijbehara, Awantipora, Barsoo, Pampore, Srinagar and others suggested that government forces deployed at the barricaded points did not allow any civilian vehicle without an official permission to enter NH-44.
“There were, however, some civil officials posted at these points who granted passes in case of emergencies,” sources told Kashmir Reader.
Hundreds of people, however, who needed to travel on the road failed to convince the authorities. Hundreds of vehicles were forced to return from these barricades and made to wait for the ban to end at 5:00 PM.
People in Srinagar faced difficulties as they were not allowed to venture on to the NH-44 from link roads. In Nowgam area, located along NH-44, people alleged that even an ambulance was made to stop for more than 15 minutes by government forces on duty.
Ambulances have been exempted from the ban by the government.
“And this was at around 6:00 PM, when even the ban time was over. They made an ambulance stop for well over 15 minutes, putting the life of the patient in jeopardy,” a local source told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the forces remained unmoved even as people argued with them.
Kashmir Reader is in possession of a photograph of the stranded ambulance.
Kashmir Reader talked to Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Chaudhry, who said that the administration will look into the matter.
“The convoy movement was over by 5:00 PM and we had withdrawn forces by then. We will have to check where and when this happened and act accordingly,” Chaudhry said.
Meanwhile, the picture of a “permission to travel” stamped on a commuter’s hand went viral over social media today — minutes after the commuter shared it over Facebook.
There was a stamp of an “Executive Magistrate, Anantnag” on the palm of the commuter, allowing him to travel on the NH-44.
Minutes after, social media platforms erupted into condemnations.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted about the incident.
“This is how permission is granted to people of J&K to use their highway. Their hands are being stamped and written on. I don’t know what to say! I am just angry at the degrading inhuman treatment being meted out to people,” Omar wrote on his Twitter handle.
Retweeting Omar, senior Indian journalist Harinder Baweja wrote that this was unbelievable.
“Bear the marks of repression on your bodies. Sorry, people of Kashmir, this is inhuman,” Baweja wrote.
The picture was shared thousands of times with people expressing anger, grief and disbelief over it.
Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez wrote on Facebook, “Permission to travel on national highway in Kashmir. Every Wednesday & Sunday, our bodies will have to witness suppression in a different way.”
The picture was still being shared when this report was filed.