As the authorities had imposed restrictions on the second day of the biweekly highway ban in the Valley, a magistrate in south Kashmir on Wednesday issued the travel permit by stamping his seal on the commuter’s hand.
There was, however, no impact of the travel restrictions on civilians on the highway stretch in Srinagar district. No restrictions were in place on the 55-km stretch of the 270-km Baramulla-Srinagar-Udhampur highway in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, which is going to the polls in the first phase of the parliamentary elections on Thursday. The Army convoys did not ply on the 55-km highway stretch on Wednesday.
The picture of the seal imprint on the commuter’s hand was clicked at Bijbehara in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, where the person was issued the permit by the Executive Magistrate to travel to Sangam town, 20 km from Anantnag town on the highway.
“We have taken note of it. We are verifying how the seal was imprinted and who has imprinted it,” Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Khalid Jahangir told Kashmir Post. He said permits were not supposed to be issued in this manner. He, however, did not identify the Magistrate.
As the photo drew sharp criticism, the respective Deputy Commissioners issued instructions to all sector magistrates on the WhatsApp groups not to issue travel permits in such a manner, an official said.
Near the Peaks Auto Crossing on the Srinagar outskirts, where the national highway turns right and enters south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, the duty magistrates since morning issued movement passes to the commuters, mostly tourists, students and government employees.
The Army and the CRPF deployed along the highway did not allow commuters to travel without valid passes and permits.
At multiple checkpoints set up on the stretch of the highway running through south Kashmir, the security forces stopped all civilian vehicles, demanding movement passes from the travellers. Those without valid permits were turned back.
A teacher posted in Pampore said the government had said their identity cards would be treated as passes but the security forces were demanding permits by the magistrates. “I am already late for work. This is just atrocious,” she said.
Abdul Rasheed, a resident of Pampore, termed the highway ban “pure harassment and punishment”.