Srinagar, Apr 7: Hundreds of vehicles were Sunday stranded on intersections while people took on-foot journeys to their destinations as government executed the ban order by prohibiting civilian traffic on the over 300- kilometre long highway to facilitate the movement of convoys.
Sunday became the first day in the history of Kashmir when the entire highway was closed for civilians to facilitate forces’ movement.
Earlier this week, the government ordered closure of the highway for civilian traffic every Sunday and Wednesday till May 31 for smooth movement of the convoys.
On Sunday, no movement of civilian vehicles was witnessed on the highway since early morning barring a beeline of armed vehicles that continued almost throughout the major part of the day.
Forces had set up barricades and concertina wires at several intersections along the road blocking any civilian vehicle to use it.
Since Saturday night, forces frisked the vehicles on highway and noted down their numbers.
Throughout the stretch from Baramulla to Udhampur, there was heavy security deployment as government forces guarded the passing convoy and prevented people to use the route for the day.
The otherwise noisy 128-kilometre stretch from Baramulla to Anantnag was deserted and at many places distraught commuters were seen walking on foot to their destinations, who, even after pleading to the forces were not allowed to drive their vehicles.
Among the commuters were many who had to visit hospitals, appear in exams or had to attend a function or participate in a funeral.
Right from Baramulla to Srinagar, scores of the commuters in groups were seen at junctions, who were showing permissions or papers to the deputed forces in order to let their vehicle pass on the highway.
Mohammad Yasin, an elderly person from Pattan, had left home early morning with his daughter for Srinagar to attend an engagement ceremony of his cousin.
“I had to walk almost 20 kilometres from Singpora to Srinagar. We couldn’t find any vehicles nor is there any alternate route other than the highway,” he said.
Similarly Ghulam Mohammad Bhat started off from his home in Srinagar to reach a hospital where his daughter is admitted, but couldn’t find any means of transport to get there.
“I have been walking for the past 15 minutes, but there is no public transport in sight. I have to reach JVC hospital (SKIMS Medical College and Hospital, Bemina), where my daughter is admitted,” Bhat said near Tengpora bridge as he braced himself for another hour of walk.
There were people who had patients in the vehicles and wanted to take them to hospitals or parents accompanying their children on way to tuition ahead of the various competitive exams due next month.
In south Kashmir, particularly Anantnag and Awantipora, the ban was most felt where one would hardly see any civilian vehicle passing on the highway.
Mushtaq Ahmad, a teacher of Islamic studies at Muslim Student Board from Awantipora had to skip his annual test as the entire area leading to Anantnag was sealed by the forces.
“Those who were residing near Anantnag appeared in the test. Even the internet was barred here today,” he said.
A groom from Anantnag district, who got married in Doda district on other side of the Jawahar Tunnel, had to obtain permission from the authorities concerned to take his wedding entourage to the bride’s home.
Danish Ali, a resident of New Qazibagh in Anantnag, got the permission for himself and his 12 companions to travel on the highway on Saturday and Sunday, but only after the entourage was put to proper frisking and security check.
Pained by the scenes, a urologist decided to cycle his way to his hospital instead of travelling in an ambulance, which have been exempted from the ban order.
“I decided to use the cycle so that I can feel the pain of the people, what they are going through because of this order. I am not going to get into arguments with anyone if I am stopped. I will change my way and pedal on,” Dr Umar said.
He said roads were the lifeline of any place and shutting them down meant shutting down the city, state or the country.
A senior police officer told The Kashmir Monitor that the highway was closed till 12 pm as forces vehicles were passing in large numbers.
“There was a threat. Arrangements were made today but the closure didn’t remain for a long time. Authorities are examining various aspects related to it,” he said.
Asked about the punishment on violation of the order, he said Deputy Commissioners have already imposed section 144 at many places.
Deputy Commissioner Anantnag Khalid Jehangir said that there are “enough” provisions in the law that could be invoked against the violators.
“It depends on the nature of violation. Section 144 is a prohibitory order but then there are many penal provisions that could be invoked depending on the nature of the offence,” he said.
The ban drew outrage on social media platforms with netizens sharing photos of the highway. Many drew comparison of the ban order with German government’s forbidding Jews from using pathways and streets in Poland from 9pm to 5am in 1939. They juxtaposed the two ban orders and the same went viral on social media platforms.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan said that he had deployed 110 officials to facilitate people on the highway.
On violation of the Highway Act, which states that Government of India has to notify in the official gazette for banning public movement on highways, he said, “Regarding the Act I don’t know. But we allowed all the vehicles and people didn’t face any problem.”
“No popular government could have even thought about banning civilian traffic on Kashmir highway as I personally saw students and patients trapped at various places while driving from Srinagar to Uri. The Governor’s administration should withdraw the ban immediately.”
Jaish almost wiped out, no one willing to head it: Army
Srinagar, Apr 24: Army on Wednesday claimed the government forces have “severely targeted” the militants for the last few months and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militant outfit was “almost wiped out with no one willing to take over it”.
Addressing a press conference here, GOC 15 Corps, KJS Dhillon, who was accompanied by Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh, IGP Kashmir SP Pani, and IG CRPF Zulfikar Hassan, said that 69 militants have been killed and 12 of them arrested so far this year.
“Post Pulwama incident, 41 militants have been killed and out of them 25 belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, 13 of them were Pakistanis while 13 were A+ category,” Dhillon said.
The GOC 15 Corps claimed that they have targeted JeM leadership.
“The situation now is so that no one is coming forward to take over the leadership of JeM in the valley,” he said.
“Even after Pakistan’s best efforts, we will continue to suppress JeM. The operations against the militants will continue with full vigour and we will not let militancy rise up,” he said, while appealing the local militants to surrender.
“Recruitment of local militants has gone down. In addition, those who surrender, we will take care of their security,” he said.
Dhillon also advised civilians not to rush to the encounter sites.
Asked about the bi-weekly restrictions on civilian traffic on the Highway, he replied, “This is just a temporary measure. There are now relaxations on the civilian traffic.”
On the occasion, the DGP said 272 militants were killed in the state during 2018 and a “large number was apprehended.”
He too claimed that the local recruitment in militant outfits had declined.
“2018 was generally a successful year. There has been less ‘law and order’ problem. We brought many youth (who had joined militancy) back to their homes,” the DGP claimed.
“Elections have been conducted peacefully in the state because of a well-planned security grid. Voter turnover at 13 percent in Anantnag district is not less. People voted despite threats, no one can be forced to vote,” he said.
Asked there were reports that 11 youth had gone missing in south Kashmir during the last one month, the IGP Kashmir said, “Few had gone missing but returned. They had gone missing for other reasons, not to join militancy.”
Held Pak militant paraded before media
‘Chota Dujana was active in Srinagar for over a year’
Srinagar, Apr 24: Police on Wednesday presented a Pakistani militant Mohammad Waqar, alias Chota Dujana before the media, who, they claimed, was arrested from Pattan area in Baramulla on Monday.
During a press conference here, the militant was briefly allowed to respond to media.
“My name is Mohammad Waqar, resident of Miana Mohalla Punjab in Pakistan. I underwent a four-month militant training there,” he said.
“I was told that Kashmiris are harassed, women are assaulted and Muslims are not allowed to offer prayers in Masjids. But I did not find any such thing here,” he replied when asked why had he picked up arms.
The militant was soon moved away.
SSP Baramulla, Abdul Wahid, said Waqar was affiliated with Lashkar-e-Toiba and had arrived in Kashmir in July 2017.
“He was operating in Srinagar for over a year now,” the officer said.
He added that the militant was travelling in a vehicle along with a Kashmiri when they were intercepted by the police near Mirgund, Pattan.
“They were chased and arrested near Chainabal Pattan,” he said.
The SSP said that as per their preliminary investigations, the militant was given shelter in old city as well as uptown areas of Srinagar.
“His plan was to resurrect militancy in Baramulla,” Wahid said.
Malik sent to judicial custody till May 24
New Delhi, Apr 24: A Delhi court Wednesday sent the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, arrested in connection with the alleged funding case, to judicial custody till May 24.
The Tihar jail authorities have also moved an application seeking direction to produce Malik through video conferencing due to security concerns.
The family of Yasin Malik, said on Saturday, that the JKLF chief had fallen ill and was shifted to a Delhi hospital after he went on a hunger strike to protest against his “illegal” detention.
Earlier this month, Malik was brought to Delhi from Jammu and was later arrested by NIA in connection with an alleged case related to the funding of militant and separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. He was produced in a special court which remanded him in NIA’s custody till April 22.
Malik was shifted to Delhi’s Tihar Jail after NIA secured his production remand. The JKLF chief was taken into preventive custody in February by the J&K police and lodged in Jammu’s Kot Balwal jail.
Malik organisation JKLF was banned last month by the Centre.