Srinagar, Apr 10: A man required an approval from a magistrate to simply cross the road in Sangam, a settlement in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, on Wednesday, the second day of the two-day-a-week ban authorities last week imposed on civilian movement on Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The photo of the civilian’s right-hand palm carrying the stamp, signature and Wednesday’s date with a note ‘Allow to Sangam’ soon went viral on social media drawing huge criticism and ridicule.
A Naib Tehsildar, who was one among the 25 officers designated by the district administration last week to regulate traffic on several crossings on the highway during the banned days, told The Kashmir Monitor that he had to stamp the man on his hand since he (officer) had “run out of passes.”
The man, the officer said, was a local and needed the permission to cross the highway.
The viral photograph gathered a lot of social media attention.
“This is how permission is granted to people in J&K to use their highway. Their hands are being stamped & written on. I don’t know what to say! Should we be flippant & mock the attempt at saving paper? I’m just angry at the degrading, inhuman treatment being meted out to people,” tweeted Former J&K Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah.
“There was a time when employment orders were issued on a pack of cigarettes and there is a time when Highway pass is issued in this way….#KashmirTragedy. Hope the stamp is not washed away before reaching the destination,” read a post by one Facebook user.
“A civilian granted permission to drive from home to office on the Kashmir highway. The highway magistrate stamp is only valid till next hand wash! It reminds me of a movie from Hitler’s era,” tweeted journalist Peerzada Ashiq.
The viral photograph was also picked by Conde Nast Traveller, an international travel magazine, which posted on their website and wrote about the recent Highway ban in Kashmir.
“Anyone who wants to get on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Sunday or Wednesday now needs a permission from the administration. And if that piece of official paper isn’t available, they may have to bear the proof of access on their body,” read the opening paragraph of the article by Conde Nast.
Last week, the J&K government notified two dedicated days in a week (Sundays and Wednesdays) exclusively for movement of government forces’ convoys on the highway while ordering a complete ban on civilian traffic during the days on the Highway. The order will remain in force till May 31.
Home Minister Amit Shah reviews situation in J&K
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
During the two-hour long meeting, also attended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba among others, the home minister was given a detailed presentation on the prevailing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly along the International Border and the Line of Control.
The home minister took stock of the situation and was briefed about the steps taken to maintain peace along border areas as well as in the Valley, a security official said.
Lieutenant General K J S Dhillon, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, which looks after the Kashmir Valley, had recently said there have been infiltration attempts from across the border.
SC allows Azad to visit J&K
The Supreme Court of India on September 16 allowed senior Indian National Congress leader and former Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to visit his home state.
The apex court allowed Azad to visit Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag and Jammu.
However, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said Azad will not be allowed to “make any speeches or hold any public rally as per his own submissions”.
Azad had moved SC seeking permission to visit his home state to enquire about the well-being of his family.
Azad’s petition was taken up by a bench of CJI Gogoi, and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer on September 16.
There are formidable reasons, says SC on J&K curbs
The Supreme Court asked the government to take all steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir but stressed there were “formidable reasons” for the restrictions imposed by the government.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi which took up a bunch of petitions on the scrapped special status for the state and its impact, also accepted a request from Ghulam Nabi Azad to travel to four districts to reach out to people and ascertain their problems.
Chief Justice Gogoi also responded to a complaint that people weren’t able to approach the high court, offered to ascertain the situation and if need be, even travel to the state.
Justice SA Bobde, one of the three judges on the bench, responded to the Attorney General’s outline of the situation in Kashmir: “These are formidable reasons. A terrible state of affairs”.
“We trust you will endeavour to establish the situation in Kashmir,” the judge told the Centre, asking the government to file an affidavit within two weeks.
Venugopal rejected the contention by journalist Anuradha Bhasin about curbs on media in Kashmir, asserting that all newspapers were being published without any impediment.
At one point when the judges asked a petitioner why he didn’t approach the high court, the bench was told that the complete shutdown prevented people from reaching the court. Chief Justice Gogoi took serious note of the argument and said he would speak with the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice to ascertain the facts and if necessary, travel to the state.