Presidential Visit Security Arrangements Irked The Tourist Street

by Ibtisam Fayaz Khan

SRINAGAR: As a part of security measures for President Ram Nath Kovind who arrived in Srinagar on Sunday on a 4-day visit, the advisory issued by traffic Police announcing the traffic diversions irked residents as adopting alternative routes has added to their inconveniences.

Tourists walking on foot on Srinagar’s Boulevard road after authorities enforced restrictions on the movement of vehicles in wake of President Ram Nath Kovind’s four day Jammu and Kashmir visit on July 25, 2021. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

The order mentioned that vehicular movement will be restricted on Boulevard-Gupkar road from July 25 to 27. The order also mentioned the alternative routes to be taken by motorists who have to go through Boulevard – Gupkar road to reach their destination. The road is the main tourist street of Srinagar.

Residents alleged that the Boulevard-Gupkar roads were blocked two days prior to the day notice was given. Not only the main roads were barricaded by loops of barbed wire but the inner roads or link roads were also blocked, they said.

The residents and daily commuters were irked as they faced a lot of inconvenience in taking alternative routes to reach their destination.

Also the security at all the checkpoints has been beefed up.

On July 23, in the evening, Muhammad Shuaib, a resident from Gagribal Boulevard was going back home but the authorities had blocked the main road and he had to look for an alternative route despite his house a few meters away.

When Shuaib found the alternative route also blocked he left his vehicle on the spot and went home on foot. However, it was late in the night that when security forces had removed barricades that he drove his vehicle home.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha receives President Ram Nath Kovind at Srinagar airport on July 25, 2021

Subsequently, the next day, another local resident from Tangbagh, Boulevard Road who wished to be anonymous said that he was coming home from a wedding in Sonwar with his mother and sister that they were stopped by officials.

“On our way home, we observed barricades at Buchwara Road, I asked the officers how will we go home, and they replied that they can’t do anything, they are given orders from above. Or else we have to wait till 9:30 pm,” he explained with distress. “For an hour, they made us wait and other locals also arrived at the spot raising their voices, after a lot of requests, they let us go.”

“Due to VIP stays that require tight security, locals of Boulevard- Gupkar Road face a lot of problems. Our business gets affected as well,” he said.

According to another resident from Sonwar who requested to be anonymous said that, the traffic diversion and minute-by-minute checkpoints create a lot of problems for civilians. It wastes a lot of our time”.

“This happens during VIP visits and Sonwar is the area where the stays by politically associated figures are most preferable,” he added.

The high profile visits according to locals entail traffic jams and are not a new norm.

“The diversions lead to traffic congestions and create a lot of havoc in the lives of normal people. They also said that we are stopped at a point when we have already crossed the long route on our journey and are told to go back. This is disturbing”.

President Ram Nath awarded a degree to a student during the 19th annual convocation of the University of Kashmir at Srinagar on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What is interesting, of the three days, President Ram Nath Kovind was in Srinagar (2 nights), he attended only the convocation of the University of Kashmir. For the remaining events, he was either flying by air or restricted to the Nehru Guest House.

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