The ban on the movement of civilian vehicles on the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla National Highway for two days a week came into force on Sunday, PTI reported. The state government had announced the ban on April 4 to facilitate the movement of security personnel during the Lok Sabha elections.

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.

Personnel from the Indian Army, police and Central Reserve Police Force have been deployed at all intersections leading to the highway, police officers said on Sunday.

“In case of any exigency, magistrates will allow only that vehicle, that too after proper verification and checking,” Inspector General of Police (Traffic) Alok Kumar told Greater Kashmir on Saturday. “Otherwise no civilian vehicle will be allowed.”

Udhampur District Magistrate Piyush Singla said in case of emergencies, citizens must apply to the sub-divisional magistrate or additional deputy commissioner. These authorities will then issue passes and permits on case-to-case basis depending upon the urgency of the situation, he added.

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.

Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, and the results will be declared on May 23.

About 2,000 civilian vehicles, which had been stranded on the highway following a landslide near Anokhi fall in Ramban district on Saturday afternoon, were cleared on Sunday morning. “The highway was cleared of the debris around 3 am after hectic 14-hour long operation and accordingly, the stranded vehicles were allowed to move towards Jammu,” Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic (National Highway, Ramban), Suresh Sharma told PTI.

Sharma added that after these vehicles were cleared, no other civilian vehicle was allowed on the highway.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called the restriction mindless. “Driving to Uri I’m getting to see first-hand the extent of disruption and inconvenience that is being caused to people because of the mindless highway closure order that is in place today,” he said.

People’s Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti said the government was depriving the people of Kashmir of simple things like access to roads. “This is Kashmir, not Palestine,” she said. “We won’t allow you to turn our beloved land into an open-air prison.”