Commuters compelled to take alternate routes to Srinagar
The highway closure order by government has brought “mismanagement” on roads—forcing commuters to take bumpy and dusty alternate routes to Srinagar.
Ashiq Hussain, 35, along with his wife, Saima, boarded a passenger’s cab in north Kashmir’s Sopore town for Srinagar on Sunday morning.
As seven more passengers seated in the cab, the driver steered from busy Cab Stand in Sopore towards Sangrama where pressed the brakes when government forces signalled him to stop at the T-junction of the highway connecting Srinagar with Baramulla in north and Sopore in east.
“The driver was told by forces to take the turn back and was allowed to drive beyond the point,” said Hussain.
Sangrama is situated along the Srinagar-Baramulla highway, some 10 kilometres from main town Baramulla and some five kilometres from Sopore, the twin towns provide connectivity to Kupwara district.
People from the twin districts—Baramulla and Kupwara—travel on the highway via Sangrama, the only easiest accessible route for Srinagar and Jammu.
When the cab Hussain was travelling in was stopped at the highway, it steered back via interior roads of Krankshivan village and drove to Sumbal, in Bandipora district from where it ferried passengers to the city after over two hours.
For Hussain, a kidney patient, the travel to meet a relative in Srinagar was hectic and bumpy like never experience before.
“Only a common man can understand the inconvenience the commuters have to go through when they are not allowed to travel on the highway,” he said.
He was pointing to the bi-weekly ban on the movement of civil vehicles on the nearly 270-km-long highway from Baramulla to Udhampur, the only surface link connecting Kashmir with the rest of the world.
The ban on civil traffic on two-days in a week (Wednesday and Sunday), which came into effect on 7 April for smooth and safe passage of security convoys, was enforced on highway for third day on Sunday.
Contingents of government forces were deployed at the intersections of the highway and barricades and concertina wires were erected across the roads to restrict the civil traffic from entering the highway for smooth and safe passage of the security convoys.
The government has exempted medical emergency cases, schools, tourists, lawyers, business establishments on the highway, Agricultural land and orchards, or any other spontaneous emergency cases from the travel ban subject to proper scrutiny. The ban remained effective from 4.am till 5.pm, as per the order.
For the hassle free movement of travellers exempted from the ban, magistrates are deployed alongside government forces at all intersections on the highway and they issue on spot passes to travellers.
Hussain could not think of approaching a magistrate for the travel pass as he was not travelling in a private car. “So, I had no option but to travel via Sumbal,” he said.
Hussain and his co-passengers were not alone to have been subjected to inconvenience.
Sajad Ahmad of Seal village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district had to face the similar experience while travelling to his relative’s residence to attend a condolence meet, due to the highway ban.
In the morning he got into a cab at the village, located around 1 and half kilometre away from the highway.
As the cab was denied permission at Chersoo village which intersection with the highway near Awantipora, Ahmad along with his relatives de-boarded the cab and began the journey by foot.
“We had to walk up to Awantipora to get a cab for Koil village to attend a condolence meet.
The traffic prohibition was imposed to prevent militants from attacking the security convoys of the highway, a measure taken in the aftermath of Pulwama fidayeen attack that left 40 paramilitary CRPF men dead on 14 February and 30 March a car blast near Banihal.
The government ordered the civil traffic ban to and fro from Jammu to Kashmir for safe ferrying of security forces for Lok Sabha election duties.