In Kashmir forces’ convoy first, civilian vehicles can wait

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People of Kashmir cooperating with security forces, we appreciate it: MHA officials, We allow essential vehicles, ambulances, school buses to ply along convoys, says Army

Nasir Azam

Srinagar, Oct 22 (KNO): The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to continue with its decision of restricting civilian traffic during security forces’ convoys on highways and other routes in Kashmir amid claims that essential supply vehicles would be allow to proceed during the forces’ movement.

According to wire service—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), on February 15, a day after the deadly suicide attack on CRPF convoy at Lethpora in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district that left 40 CRPF men dead and several others injured, the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had chaired a high level security meet in Srinagar where it was decided that no civilian vehicle would be allowed to travel along the forces’ vehicles.

On February 14, Adil Dar, a resident of Pulwama, and Jaish-e-Muhammad rammed his vehicle laden with explosives into the CRPF convoy causing huge causality to the Central paramilitary forces prompting the entire security grid in Delhi and Srinagar to go for a series of measures to ensure such attacks are thwarted.

Since February 15 this year, on all the vital routes including highways especially Srinagar-Jammu and Srinagar-Baramulla national highways, restrictions on civilian vehicles during the convoy movement are being strictly implemented. Witnesses told KNO that the intensity of the restrictions is such that not even two-wheelers are allowed during the convoy movement.

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“The Srinagar-Jammu highway witnesses huge movement of convoys be that of army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP or Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) almost every day. So restrictions that were put in place on the movement of civilian traffic during convoy movement are being enforced in letter and spirit,” said a senior police officer posted at Ramban, wishing not to be named.

In Kashmir, locals travelling from South Kashmir parts to Srinagar on regular basis, alleged that they are being stopped at multiple locations whenever there is a convoy movement on the highways or other routes. “On every day, hundreds of private vehicles are stopped by the soldiers on highway at multiple points be that Anantnag, Qazigund, Mattan, Bijbehera, Pampore, and also on the new express highway bye-bass connection Srinagar with South Kashmir,” said Aijaz Rashid, who travels to Srinagar thrice a week to and fro from South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

 He said security forces stop every kind of civilian movement on the highways for at least 20 minutes and when the fleet of convoy is more, civilian vehicles are halted for even 30 minutes or more till the last convoy vehicles passes.

“When the soldiers get signal that there is no vehicle left behind, only then civilian vehicles are allowed to proceed. This has been happening since February 15,” Rashid said.

Many travelers, who travel from Baramulla to Srinagar, also narrated similar story. “Every single vehicle is being stopped at multiple points and only army vehicles are allowed to proceed. Our travel has become costly affair and above all it takes one-and-a half hour to reach Srinagar from Baramulla and sometimes more because of huge convoy movement,” Syed Tahir Bashir, who works in a government department in Srinagar told KNO. He said earlier Baramula-Srinagar travel was just an hour-long journey.

A senior MHA official while defending its decision said that people of Kashmir are fully cooperating with the security forces during the convoy movement. “People of Kashmir have a great respect for the security forces and they prefer to wait till all convoy vehicles pass smoothly. We appreciate people’s cooperation,” he said, pleading anonymity.

An army official in Srinagar, while speaking on the condition of anonymity, told KNO that during the convoy movement all essential supply vehicles that include ambulances, and vehicles ferrying government employees are allowed to proceed along with the convoy vehicles. “We even allow school buses to ply normally along with the convoy vehicles,” he claimed. Asked whether there would be some relaxation in the travel of civilian vehicles during convoy movement, he said: “Relaxations are already in place and more would be done at an appropriate time.”

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