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Valley sees first Sunday of highway closure

Firdous Hassan

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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.”

OMAR ABDULLAH
“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.”

 
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Lead Stories

After mysterious threat posters: Shutdown stages comeback in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 21:  Barely a week into normalcy, Kashmir observed an instant shutdown on Thursday after mysterious threat posters appeared in the old city.

Shops and business establishments remained closed.  Slender traffic movement however was observed on the Srinagar roads.

For the last one week, shops and business establishments, which would normally close before noon, remained open till late afternoon. Public transport had also hit roads after three and half month’s hiatus.

 

But on Thursday, shutdown returned to parts of the valley following mysterious threat posters. On Wednesday unknown people had put up posters in old city asking shopkeepers to observe hartal.

What added to the crisis was the mysterious fire that razed four shops to ground at Bohri Kadal on Wednesday. The incident also prompted shopkeepers to down shutters. Unknown people had inscribed “Last Warning” on the shutters of various shops at Zaina Kadal, apparently to enforce shutdown in the old city.

“None of the shops opened today as some warning posters had come up in downtown yesterday,” said a shopkeeper from Bohri Kadal.

Impact of warning posters was also seen in Lal Chowk, Residency Road, Maisuma and Hari Singh High Street, which for the last one week saw huge rush of shoppers.

Traffic which plied normally till noon, thinned later in the day with few passenger vehicles plying in civil line areas. Complete shutdown was also observed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag, and Shopian. Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district too observed shutdown.

Police sources said they are trying to identify the people who put up threat posters in the old city. “We are enquiring. We are looking into the case,” said VK Birdhi, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range.

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WPD seeks help to protect migratory birds flocking Kashmir wetlands

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Nov 21: As migratory birds start flocking wetlands in Jammu and Kashmir, the Wildlife Protection Department (WPD) has sought assistance from the forest protection force and the police to prevent hunting, poaching, capturing and selling of the winged visitors.

Lakhs of birds start arriving in the valley from the first week of November as Kashmir provides them a comparatively hospitable alternate habitat compared to the extreme freezing conditions in their natural habitats in Siberia, China, Japan and other countries in the northern hemisphere.

“The general public is informed that hunting, poaching, capturing and selling of migratory birds is punishable under Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Any person venturing to hunt, poach, capture or sell these birds is liable to a jail term of one year along with fine up to Rs 10,000,” WPD said in a statement here.

 

It said the hunting, poaching, capturing or sale of these birds is non-bailable and non-compoundable offences.

“The department seeks assistance from the forest protection force and the local police to prevent hunting, poaching, capturing and selling of these migratory birds in the wetlands of Kashmir,” the statement said.

It said these birds are enlisted in various schedules of Indian Wildlife Protection Act and receive complete protection against hunting, poaching, capturing and selling.

The birds found in the wetlands include migratory ducks and geese which include Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.

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Post abrogation of Art 370: Multinationals, manufacturing giants make beeline to set up units in UT

J&K receives `Expression of Interest’ worth Rs 3000 Cr

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Nov 20: Dalmia Bharat Group, Singapore Electric vehicles and Dubai-based Lulu Internationals are among over 40 companies, which have shown interest in investing in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370.  

Jammu and Kashmir, which was a no-go- zone for outside investors, has been opened for all national and international business players after the scrapping of special status on August 5.

A source told The Kashmir Monitor that more than 40 companies have submitted their ‘Expression of Interest’ to invest in 10 different sectors in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Hospitality, Tourism, Education, Information Technology, Horticulture, Agriculture, Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME) and manufacturing are some of the sectors which companies have zeroed in on.

“Prominent among these companies include Escott Infrastructure, Dalmia Bharat Group, Shree Cements, Jackson Group, Indian School of Business, Singapore Electric Vehicles and Lulu Group. They have submitted the proposals for setting up their units in Jammu and Kashmir,” the source said.

With an annual turnover of Rs 70, 000 crore, Dalmia Bharat Group is a renowned business house in India, which deals with cement, sugar, thermal power and other businesses.

Similarly, Kolkata-based Shree Cement, which has annual turnover of Rs 58.50 billion, has shown interest in setting up its unit in Jammu and Kashmir.

Singapore based Singapore Electric Vehicles Pvt Ltd, a commercial electric fleet company, has desired to invest in the manufacturing sector.

Founded in 2001, Indian School of Business, a private business college, has expressed readiness to invest in the education sector by setting up its campuses in the union territory.

Helmet manufacturing giant ‘Steelbird’ has also offered to set up a plant in Jammu and Kashmir. Hospitality player ‘Lemon Tree’ has also proposed two new properties with 35-40 beds each in Gulmarg and Sonmarg areas.

An official privy to the development said government has received 60 ‘Expression of Interests’ so far, which is worth approximately Rs 3000 crore.

“Some companies have submitted their Expression of Interests twice. Some wants to build tourism infrastructure and others want to set up industries,” he said.

Managing Director SIDCO, Ravinder Kumar told The Kashmir Monitor that a committee has been constituted to review the ‘Expression of Interest’ by these companies. “We are going to review the Expression of Interests in 10 to 12 days,” he said.

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