The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday said that it has decided to lift the restrictions on civilian movement between Srinagar and Udhampur on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway on Wednesdays from May 13. However, the restriction on movement on Sundays will remain.
In April, the state administration had banned civilian traffic movement between Baramulla and Udhampur on National Highway 44 from 4 am to 5 pm on Sundays and Wednesdays till May 31. This was done to enable the increased movement of security forces before and during the Lok Sabha elections. The move came after the Pulwama attack on February 14, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.
On April 20, the state government partially removed restrictions on civilian traffic movement on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The administration said the curbs will be in place only on Sundays on the Srinagar-Baramulla stretch of the highway. The restriction on civilian movement between Srinagar and Baramulla on the highway was completely lifted from May 2.
“The government is alive to the needs of citizens and has once again reviewed the requirement of security forces,” the administration said its in press release on Tuesday. It said the curbs will be relaxed because polling for the Lok Sabha elections in Shopian and Pulwama districts is now over.
The government claimed that the restrictions “strike a balance” between the needs of the people and of security forces. “The restrictions will continue to be reviewed on a real time basis and modifications will be made as necessary in the coming days,” it added.
The order was criticised by political leaders, who called it anti-civilian and filed petitions in the state High Court against the ban. The Centre justified the decision as a reasonable one and said it would ensure safe movement of security forces.
The government had put procedures in place to enable the movement of civilian vehicles in case of emergencies, but local media outlets have reported complaints of chaos, confusion and inconvenience. On the second day of the ban on April 10, a patient died after his ambulance was stopped on the highway because of the restrictions. The Central Reserve Police Force has ordered an inquiry into this incident.