SRINAGAR: Under immense pressure from various quarters, the Jammu and Kashmir administration Wednesday announced complete withdrawal of restrictions on civilian traffic movement between Srinagar and Baramulla.
The restrictions were put in place last month to facilitate movement of security forces’ convoys on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway (NH-44).
There will be no restriction on movement of civilian traffic from tomorrow. The civilian traffic movement had been restricted on Wednesday and Sunday to allow movement of security forces’ convoy, an official spokesman said.
The move to withdraw the restrictions came after severe criticism from political parties which had termed it a ‘tugluki farman’ (dictatorial order).
Several politicians, including National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, and PDP patron Mehbooba Mufti, had staged protests against the state government for imposing the restriction.
Officials in the state administration, on the condition of anonymity, said even Governor Satya Pal Malik was not happy with the decision, which was taken by J-K Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam.
The order was issued by Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra, they said.
The decision was taken to facilitate smooth movement of security forces, but the order, according to officials engaged in counter-insurgency, was taken arbitrarily as the army had refused to adhere to it.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police also felt that movement of convoys cannot be restricted to a particular day.
The state administration had imposed restriction on civilian traffic movement after the February 14 Pulwama attack in which over 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives when an explosive laden vehicle hit a bus in their convoy.
The government had ordered that no civilian traffic would be there on Wednesday and Sunday of every week between 4 am to 5 pm.
However, the restriction between Srinagar and Baramulla was limited to only Sunday from April 22.
The state administration spokesman said the government is monitoring the convoy needs of security forces on real-time basis and making all attempts to minimise public inconvenience.
He said as indicated earlier, the government is aware of the needs of citizens and will seek to balance public convenience with requirements of security forces’ convoys.
“The government has once again reviewed the requirement of security forces. Following the successful conduct of elections in Kulgam and Anantnag districts and as the requirement of security forces is now reducing as they are de-inducted…the restriction on civilian movement between Srinagar and Baramulla on the NH-44 will be completely lifted” from tomorrow, he said.
However, the restrictions will continue between Srinagar and Udhampur, a distance of 202 kilometres, as earlier, the spokesman said.
These would be reviewed periodically and relaxation would be made as the need for restriction reduces, he said, adding that a complete review of restrictions on the highway would be done subsequently.
The government stated that the purpose of these restrictions is in the larger interest of security of everyone and appealed to the people to extend full cooperation in the smooth regulation of traffic.