Mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday took out protest marches against the government's restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. The government has ordered the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway for all kinds of civilian traffic from Udhampur to Baramulla every Sunday and Wednesday in order to facilitate movement of security forces for Lok Sabha election duty. It will remain effective until May 31.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has demanded the immediate rollback of the restrictions, while PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti termed the government's decision as "wrong". The decision came in the aftermath of the February 14 terror attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy on the highway in Pulwama district. Forty CRPF personnel were killed.
On March 30, another attempt was made to target a CRPF convoy with a car bomb on the highway near Banihal in Ramban district. National Conference (NC) leaders led by Abdullah took out a march at Athwajan on the highway to protest the ban imposed by the government.
"This is a wrong order. They should use train service for the movement of the security force personnel or they can move them at night so that people do not have to suffer," the NC president said. "It is our demand that this order is revoked. It sounds like a dictatorship," Abdullah added.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also took out a protest march against the ban. "This is very wrong. We don't have an occupational army here. If the government of India thinks that by resorting to such tactics they can suppress the people here, they are wrong," she said.
The former chief minister said her party will go to court against the ban order. "Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. That they will have to seek permission to use their own roads, we will not allow this to happen. I appeal to people to defy this ban," she said.
Later, Mehbooba took to Twitter saying she will not allow Kashmiris to be imprisoned in their own land. "Protested against Guv admins callous & absurd ban today. How can you restrict civilian movement on our main highway? You want to smother Kashmiris, change the demographics of the state & imprison them in their own land? Over my dead body," she tweeted.
The People's Conference leader and candidate for Srinagar Lok Sabha seat Irfan Ansari also staged a protest near Bemina against the ban.
(With inputs from agencies.)