It also said that the additional security personnel were being brought in for anti-militancy operations.
Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday announced partial lifting of the ban on the civilian traffic movement on the vital Baramulla-Jammu highway.
It said that the restrictions on civilian movement along the 55-km Srinagar-Baramulla stretch of the road would now be limited only to Sundays instead of two days (Sunday and Wednesday) with effect from April 22.
The restrictions twice weekly would, however, continues along the Srinagar- Udhampur section of the National Highway-44, it said. At the same time, the government promised to review its decision periodically and said that further relaxation would be made “as the need for restriction reduces”.
The state government had earlier this month imposed a complete ban on civilian traffic movement along the Baramulla-Udhampur section of the 350-km long highway between 4 am and 5 pm on Sundays and Wednesdays till May 31. It had said that the decision was taken “keeping in view the large movement of security forces on the national highway during the Parliamentary elections and associated possibility of fidayeen terror attack on security forces’ convoys”. It also said that the additional security personnel were being brought in for anti-militancy operations.
The decision was taken following a directive from the Union Home Ministry in the backdrop of the February 14 terror attack on a CRPF convoy at Lethapora in Pulwama) along the highway.
The government had said that another “possible fidayeen attack” on another security force convoy at Banihal took place on March 30.
However, the move has been opposed strongly by political parties, social and trade groups and also online in J&K and beyond. There have been protests in Srinagar and elsewhere against the ban termed as “callous, absurd and anti people” by critics. Also on each day of the ban, chaos was witnessed in the Valley, mainly on the roads connecting with the highway. Following this the authorities said that over one hundred duty magistrates are deployed along the highway to issue special travel passes for emergency services on the ban days.
An official statement issued in Jammu on Saturday said that the government is monitoring the convoy needs of security forces on a real time basis and making all attempts to minimize public inconvenience. “For example, no restrictions were imposed on April 17, although it was a convoy day but there was no need for movement of security force convoys”, it said.
The statement further said that the government has once again reviewed the requirement of security forces, particularly in the light of “successful conduct” of elections in Baramulla and Jammu Lok Sabha constituencies on April 11 and Srinagar & Kathua on April 18. “As the requirement of security forces is now reducing for they are de-inducted, the government has decided to partially relax the restrictions on traffic imposed and, therefore, the restriction on civilian movement along the highway between Srinagar and Baramulla would now be limited only to Sunday”, it said adding the restrictions would continue between Srinagar and Udhampur as earlier”.
The official statement said that even on the days of restrictions, the local administration would continue to facilitate movement of civilian traffic “as has been happening in the last two weeks”. “Further, the local administration and police would examine the possibility of allowing public transport of JKSRTC to move during the period of restriction on the national highway even on convoy days,” it said and added “ A complete review of restrictions on the highway would be done after the last phase of elections on May 6 to examine the need for continuing with them”.
The government claimed that the purpose of these restrictions “is in the larger interest of security of everyone” and appealed the people to extend full cooperation in the smooth regulation of traffic”.