The Jammu and Kashmir government has prohibited the movement of civilian traffic on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway for two days every week, reported Greater Kashmir. Civilian traffic will be banned from 4 am to 5 pm on Sundays and Wednesdays till May 31. The restriction will apply for traffic moving between Baramulla and Udhampur.

The decision was taken because of the increased movement of security forces before and during the Lok Sabha elections and the threat of suicide attacks. The General Elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23.

“During these days, no civilian traffic would be allowed on the National Highway,” read the order. “To mitigate the inconvenience to civilians by this move, the government has notified two dedicated days in a week [Sunday and Wednesday] exclusively for the movement of security forces convoys and there would be a complete ban on civilian traffic on the National Highway during these two days from 4 am to 5 pm.”

“In the event of any requirement for local traffic movement for any emergency or for other purposes, the local administration and police would evolve necessary procedures for this as is done during curfew days,” said the order.

This is the first time the government has decided to stop civilian traffic on the national highway. The move comes weeks after 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama district on February 14.

The order was criticised by political leaders, who called it anti-civilian. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said it was unfriendly. “Patients will not be able to reach hospitals, students will be deprived access to schools, employees won’t be able to reach work and the list goes on and on,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir called it an “inhuman decision” that violates human rights. “The civilians will face a lot of trouble and the government should rethink this as it will lead to a crisis,” he added.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti called it a diktat of martial law, reported ANI. “Last I checked, we were a democracy,” she said. “But this sounds like a diktat of martial law. After bringing Kashmir to the brink, the administration is adamant on ensuring collective punishment for Kashmiris.”

Bharatiya Janata Party state spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the order was against civilians. “This is a completely unjustified order aimed to create problems for civilians and should be revoked,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times.

Peoples Conference chairperson Sajjad Lone said military needs should be subservient to civilian needs in a civilised world. “This certainly will be a first of its kind order and will have disastrous social political and economic consequences,” he said. “The government should not carve a military identity for itself.”