SRINAGAR: On Sunday, when the authorities imposed a literal curfew on the Jammu – Baramulla highway and appointed around 100 magistrates to oversee the movement of the convoys, imagine the number of security vehicles that used the road. It was 45 from Srinagar and 120 from Jammu, according to a detailed report that the Jammu newspaper Excelsior carried.
“For a modest convoy of 45 vehicles of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that plied from Srinagar to Jammu on National Highway (NH-44), lakhs of people from Baramulla to Udhampur remained stranded today with the only surface link to Kashmir remaining out of bounds for civilians on the first day of restrictions while thousands of vehicles remained stranded in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts besides Chenani and Udhampur in Jammu region due to highway restrictions,” the newspaper reported.
“A senior official said that 45-vehicle convoy of CRPF plied from Srinagar to Jammu this morning under tight security with all the intersections barricaded by the troops deployed in full strength on the NH-44. They didn’t allow any civilian movement on the Highway except few vehicles with special passes,” the newspaper said. “The official, however, said that a convoy of 120 vehicles left Jammu for Srinagar this morning and crossed Jawahar Tunnel in the evening after the restrictions time was over.”
Interestingly, there was no army convoy between Srinagar and Jammu or vice versa. However, a modest army convoy plied from Baramulla to Srinagar and reached Badami Bagh cantonment at around noon.
Authorities even avoided offering any permission to the people living between Pantha Chowk and Narbal for whom the highway is a normal road because they live on it.
Though the tourists are exempted, the newspaper quoted a tour operator Yakub Dunoo saying that his visitors were stopped 50 times between Srinagar and Bejbehara. “An official statement issued here said that as per the reports gathered from the DCs of Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam and Baramulla, special permission passes were given to 128, 210, 45 and 110 vehicles, totalling 493 vehicles, falling in the exempted categories,” the newspaper reported.
The report that was jointly done by two reporters – Fayaz Bukhari from Srinagar and Gopal Sharma from Jammu said that the decision of banning the civil movement was not supportive by most of the security grid and the governor.
“Sources said that the bi-weekly restrictions for the smooth movement of security force convoys were vehemently opposed by almost all security agencies during last evening’s security review meeting chaired by Governor SP Malik,” the report said. “They said that Police, army, CID, IB, the majority of the CRPF top officials and local administration were not in favour of the restrictions on the civilian movement on the NH-44. They said that even Governor expressed his displeasure over the order and directed for hassle-free movement of the civilians in case of emergencies.”
In wake of the Lethpora attack, the Home Ministry announced that the security grid will have the first right to use the highway. A few weeks later, after the decision was implemented, the government said the highway will be used by the security personnel for two days – Sunday and Wednesday.