Religious affair turned into ‘Military Exercise’: Curbs on highway for Hindu pilgrimage anger local residents

The ban on civilian traffic on the crucial highway in Kashmir during daytime and train services in the wake of the ongoing Amarnath yatra has triggered chaos and anger across the Kashmir valley.
Two back-to-back orders were issued on Monday and Tuesday to ban the civilian traffic between Kashmir and Jammu divisions for five hours daily and to suspend rail service between Qazigund in Kashmir and Banihal station in the Jammu division, respectively.

The unprecedented orders were taken in the wake of the ongoing pilgrimage and will continue for the next 45 days till mid-August, effectively causing a daytime blockade in the Kashmir valley.

The orders are also a growing evidence of the ‘mismanagement’ of the pilgrimage as such measures were never taken in the history of the yatra.

The Amarnath yatra began earlier this week amid heavy security arrangements that included dozens of checkpoints along the national highway and travel ban. The travel ban, however, caused chaos on roads as the traffic is stopped for hours on the highway, triggering anger in the region. Locals alleged that a religious affair had been “unnecessarily” turned into a “military exercise”.

Criticising the travel ban, Shah Faesal, a former IAS officer-turned-politician, tweeted:“First time in last 30 years SXR-JMU NH was closed to civilian traffic during elections. Now closed again for yatra. Those signing orders to stop movement of locals must remember that there will be a day of reckoning. We welcome Yatris to land of Shiva. But this curfew must end.”

Shabir Dar, a south Kashmir resident, said travel along the national highway had become “highly inconvenient”. “It’s taking three hours to cover an hour’s distance,” Dar added.

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