Normal life was thrown out of gear at all places falling along the national highway between Udhampur to Banihal on Sunday as the day-long ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the 130 km road in Jammu region came into place from 4 am.
While nearly 4,000 trucks, passenger buses and light motor vehicles were stopped by the police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at Nagrota and Udhampur to pave way for the movement of security forces’ convoy between Jammu and Baramulla, several hundred more were stranded at intersections along the nearly 130-km long road from Udhampur’s Jakheni area to Jawahar tunnel in Ramban district.
Implementation of restrictions on Day 1 was so strict that even local Gujjars and Bakerwals who had come to Udhampur town from nearby villages to supply milk during the wee hours were not allowed to return home later during the day.
Javed Ahmed was on his way back home from Delhi, along with his family, was among those stranded along the highway. “We have been travelling for the past three days and we do not know when we will reach home due to the uncertainty about the road remaining open,” he said. “Our bus was scheduled to leave Delhi ISBT on Thursday evening, but it left only on Friday. We reached Jakheni in Udhampur on Saturday, due to the bus delay, only to get stranded following road-closure due to landslides at Anokhi fall in Ramban district the same evening. We kept waiting throughout the night for the road to reopen but all in vain since the ban came into force during the wee hours on Sunday,” he added.
In view of civilian vehicles off the road, people were seen walking long distances on foot to reach their respective destinations. A group of state government employees who had to reach Banihal town for training ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections were stuck at Ramban. Later, they were allowed to undergo training at Ramban, sources said. Read | J&K highway curbs: Patients, students, govt staff exempted
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah expressed his resentment with the move and said, “Driving to Uri I’m getting to see first-hand the extent of disruption and inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the mindless highway closure order that is in place today.”
People’s Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti said her party would not allow Kashmir to be turned into an “open-air prison”. She further said, “This is Kashmir, not Palestine. We won’t allow you to turn our beloved land into an open-air prison. ‘Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha, woh Kashmir humara hai’.
Mehbooba Mufti said that it seems like the government admin wants to punish people by depriving them of simple things like access to roads She added that she hoped the order is revoked immediately.
The Kashmir-bound security forces’ convoy could not leave Udhampur till 2 pm as the road was yet to be cleared of the vehicles which got stranded due to landslides at Anokhi fall the previous evening. “The road was cleared of landslides around 3 am and nearly 1,500 civilian vehicles allowed to move to their respective destinations,” said Traffic Control Room at Ramban.
The security forces’ convoy was allowed to proceed to Kashmir from Udhampur only after the last of these Jammu-bound vehicles crossed Jakheni by 2 pm, sources said.
Udhampur Superintendent of police (SSP) Rajiv Pandey said that the schedule for movement of security forces’ convoys got disrupted on the first day due to landslides at Anokhi fall last evening.
The state government had this week notified Sunday and Wednesday for movement of security forces’ convoys along the national highway between Baramulla and Jammu, saying that no civilian vehicle will be allowed to move on these two days from 4 am to 5 pm. However, due to a delay in the movement of security forces’ convoy on Sunday, sources said that authorities may extend the ban for a few more hours, sources said.
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