My Husband Is Dying, Have to Wait For Authorities to Let Us Use the Highway, Says Elderly Woman
For locals, the ban civilian traffic on the highway is ridiculous and something they cannot comprehend.
The authorities have ordered a ban on civilian movement on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Awantipora: Shareefa Banu left with her ailing husband on Wednesday morning for Srinagar from their home in Awantipora town of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Her husband, Ghulam Mohammad Kumar, is suffering from a neurological disease. He gets frequent strokes and his body keeps shivering due to the disease.
Kumar was working as a manual labourer before the disease caught him. With donations and help from neighbours, Banu took him to top hospitals in Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh, but doctors couldn’t come up with a cure.
Now the couple, in their mid-50s, travel over 30km every week on Wednesdays to the shrine of a popular Sufi mystic, Makhdoom Sahib, in Srinagar’s downtown.
People from different parts of the Valley visit the shrine and participate in night-long prayers on this one day of the week. For the couple, the night gives them relief and a hope that Kumar would be able to live a healthy normal life again.
As usual, the couple left from their home this Wednesday, but there was no public transport on the road. There was a desolation. But they were determined to visit the shrine. They managed to reach the highway in a private car.
They then kept seeking for a lift from ambulances, tourist cars and the other vehicles that were allowed to travel on the highway, but for nearly two hours no one stopped. They were delighted when a journalist stopped by.
For people like Banu and Kumar, the traffic ban on the highway is ridiculous and something they don’t care about.
“How can they block the road?” asks Bano, surprised and angry about the crisis. “My husband is dying and I will have to wait for the authorities to let us move on the highway as per their wish,” she says.
The authorities have ordered a ban on civilian movement on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the main route in Kashmir, on Wednesdays and Sundays.
With only forces’ convoys allowed to move, the order is being compared to roads bans in Palestine.
The highway closure was imposed by the government following a suicide attack in Pulwama on a CRPF convoy that killed 40 paramilary jawans in February.
The ban has exempted ambulances, school buses, tourist vehicles and lawyers. Besides, magistrates have been deployed near checkpoints to give permission to people who they might consider to be in an emergency.
The magistrates were issuing permission by putting stamp impressions.
When a professor from Islamic University of Science and Technology was stopped at a check-post, he could only move forward after getting a stamp on hand.
The administration has been maintaining that the ban will remain in force till the elections are over in the state. Even as the order mentions that on the rest of the days, no convoys of forces would ply on the highway, forces have been stopping traffic on the highway on the other days, as well.
Soon after the February-14 attack, the forces started stopping civilian traffic when their convoys are passing. The two-day ban order came on April 3.
Troops guarding the highway are saying that irrespective of the ban, they have been ordered to stop civilian traffic whenever convoys have to pass.
People like Bano, however, are unable to comprehend what is happening around. “Our life has been made a joke. Who blocks road like this,” she says.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the decision to ban movement of civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was a reasonable one to ensure safe movement of security forces.
“The state government of Jammu and Kashmir has already clarified in unambiguous terms, that out of seven days in a week, only reasonable restrictions have been imposed, that too for 12 hours, two days in a week,” said the ministry.
“This has been done to ensure safe movement of forces and at the same time minimising the inconvenience to public,” the MHA said.
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