Srinagar, Jul 2: The authorities have banned civilian traffic movement to allow free and secure movement of vehicles carrying Amarnath pilgrims on the national highway, the only all weather road connecting the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country.
However, the decision evoked sharp reaction in the valley.
The government order said the ban on 97 km-stretch from Qazigund to Nashri between 1000 hrs to 1500 hrs on the civilian traffic movement will continue till the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas on August 15.
This has however, caused disruptions on the highway.
After the Pulwama fidayeen attack in February this year in which 44 CRPF personnel were killed, the administration had banned civilian traffic along the highway for twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday to ensure the safety security force convoys. The ban was later lifted about two months.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement, General Secretary Shehla Rashid, in a statement on Tuesday, expressed her strong opposition to the gag on civilian movement being imposed in view of Amarnath yatra.
She said, 'While we welcome the yatris with our heart and soul, this order by the traffic department is simply a kind of apartheid law. Nowhere in the world are local populations held hostage to the movement of pilgrims. Traders, students and patients are suffering massively due to this illogical order. Fruit and other goods worth crores are rotting on the highways, causing unimaginable damage to the local economy.'
She objected to the use of the word 'convoy' to describe vehicles of devotees. 'It is strange that the traffic department's order uses the word convoy to describe pilgrim vehicles. By doing so, the traffic department is covertly trying to pass this off as a national security concern. Let us assure the world that Kashmiri civilians are no threat to the yatris, and that the yatra is facilitated by the locals and nobody else. It is only the locals who know how to navigate the yatra track and the weather conditions. No yatra would have been possible without the support of locals. Now, all of a sudden, the traffic department is trying to act as if this is the first time that Amarnath yatra is being held', said Ms Rashid.
The General Secretary urged the state government to revoke this order immediately. She said, 'The safety of our guests is our prime concern. It is the job of the state government to find a solution that does not affect the local population. As Kashmiris, we have time and again demonstrated their hospitality. Even when Kashmiri students were being hounded out of hostels, post-Pulwama attack, the local traders as well as common people demonstrated high ethical standards by offering free boarding and lodging to stranded tourists. This is how we are paid back! We urge the governor administration to immediately revoke this order and stop portraying Kashmiris as the enemies of yatris'. (UNI)