Highway Ban: People Speak

Defy the national highway banning and go wherever they want to: Mehbooba Mufti
Lift travel restrictions or face agitation: Farooq Abdullah
Omar Abdullah slams Govt over highway closur
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Highway ban collective punishment for people: Retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi

Defy the national highway banning and go wherever they want to: Mehbooba Mufti
Peoples Democratic Party President and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti Sunday asked people to defy the national highway banning and go wherever they want to.

“If Government of India thinks they can suppress the people of Kashmir by such things then we will continue to defy this ban. Tomorrow we will move an application in the court against this order,” the PDP President said talking to media persons on the sidelines of her protest march near Lasjan by-pass on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Terming the ban as “callous” and “absurd”, she said how can the government restrict civilian movement on their main highway.
“You want to smother Kashmiris, change the demographics of the State and imprison them in their own land? Over my body,” Mehbooba said.
She said Kashmir was not Palestine and her party would not allow Government of India (GoI) to turn her beloved land into an open-air prison.

The PDP chief said under the present dispensation, Kashmiri people now need to seek permission to use roads that rightfully belong to them and pay taxes for.
“This seems like GoI’s plan is to reduce us to second class citizens in our own territory. Kashmir’s story has all the elements of a Greek tragedy,” Mehbooba said adding she hopes the order is revoked immediately.
The PDP chief said she cannot imagine this working out practically.
“There is no method to this madness. It seems like the Governor’s administration wants to punish people by depriving them of simple things like access to roads,” Mehbooba said.
She said, “Kashmir belongs to us, and it is our choice whether we use our resources or not, the Government of India has no right to decide anything on it.”

Mehbooba said students including children and girls were going through a tough phase as they cannot attend their classes.
Earlier, PDP leaders led by party’s District President Srinagar Khurshid Alam took out a protest rally from Athwajan to defy the ban but were stopped by a contingent of Jammu Kashmir Police.
The protesters raised slogans against the Governor’s administration for implementing the order.

Talking to media persons, PDP leader and former MLA Muhammad Ashraf Mir termed the ban as an act of “terrorism” and “hooliganism” against the common people.
“This ban on the movement of civilians is an injustice with the people of Kashmir. I think our fundamental right is being violated,” Mir said.

He said every day the Governor’s administration was coming up with such orders which were anti-common people.
The State government had last week announced that the highway from Baramulla to Udhampur would be put out of bounds for civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays till May 31.

Lift travel restrictions or face agitation : Farooq Abdullah
Terming the ban on movement of civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway as “dictatorial”, the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah Sunday said the state government should lift the travel restrictions “before there is more bloodshed” in Kashmir.

“Are we being ruled as a colony or are we living in an independent nation?” Abdullah asked, while leading a protest against the state administration over its ban on movement of civilian traffic on the highway twice a week, at PanthaChowk here.

“There is police and army everywhere on roads. How will people move in such a situation? They have put us in a cage,” Abdullah said.

Stating that the ban order was “completely wrong”, Abdullah said the government has subjected the people of Kashmir to hardships.
“This order should be withdrawn immediately,” he demanded.

The National Conference chief said the government can use trains to move forces in Kashmir or have the convoys ply during night.
“But this (the ban) is harassment and dictatorship,” he said.

He warned that National Conference will start an agitation if the ban order is not revoked immediately.
“The government should withdraw this order before there is more bloodshed in Kashmir,” he said.

Last week, the governor’s administration announced that no civilian traffic will be allowed on the highway from Baramulla through Srinagar up to Udhampur on Sunday and Wednesday till May 31. These days have been kept for movement of forces’ convoys on the highway that passes through five districts in Kashmir.

While the government has said it has banned the civilian traffic to allow safe passage to convoys and prevent any Pulwama-type fidayeen attacks, Abdullah said the attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed on February 14 was “government of India’s own mistake”.

“They knew that the attack will happen. Where from did the explosive reach Kashmir? Modi (Prime Minister NarendraModi) wants to win the (parliamentary) election and that is why they did this. I’m telling him even today that they did this (attack) themselves. And now we people are being punished,” Abdullah alleged.

Omar Abdullah slams Govt over highway closure
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah Sunday demanded immediate revocation of the government order banning civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway for two days a week, saying he doesn’t “understand the logic” behind such a move.

Addressing an election rally in Uri area of northern Baramulla district on the day the highway traffic ban came into force, Omar said: “I don’t understand the logic behind this ban. If security forces can normally operate their convoys for five days without stopping the civilian traffic, then what is so special about Sundays and Wednesdays when civilian traffic will be stopped for movement of forces’ convoys?”

“If threat perception is for two days, then what about five days when security forces’ movement will go alongside the civilian traffic?” Omar asked, and reiterated his demand for withdrawal of the ban “which is bound to cause pain and anguish among common people”.

“We want the highway to be returned to the people,” he said.
Omar rued that barbed wire has been placed on roads to block civilian traffic along the highway.
“Though students and emergency cases have been exempted, but how can other people reach their destinations amid such harsh restrictions?” he asked.

Omar said that Jammu and Kashmir is “facing the worst situation at this juncture” as “conspiracies are being hatched to abrogate state’s special status”.
“When we talk of the importance of Article 35A and protection of special status, we mean ensuring and protecting the employment opportunities to the youths of the state which, in absence of these provisions, will be badly hit. It is Article 35-A which ensures unemployed youth job opportunity in government sector,” Omar said.

Cautioning “forces eager to remove the state’s special status”, Omar said: “Jammu and Kashmir is not like any other state of the country that joined the union of India without any conditions. When Maharaja signed the instrument of accession, it was decided after thorough deliberations that the government of India would have right on few things only, while the rest will remain with the state,” he said.

Omar said the conditions of accession have already been weakened and attempts are now being made that whatever is left with the people of the state “should be snatched”.
“That is why we have to ensure that our true representative represents us in the parliament. We have our own constitution and our own flag which need to be protected,” he said.
Referring to BharatiyaJanata Party and Peoples Conference, Omar said “their aim is to remove the special status of the state”.

“People should remain cautious about these people who are here to snatch our political rights. In the past four years, when the state was passing through the worst situation on law and order front and/or hostility between India and Pakistan which led to evacuation of civilians from several border areas, why didn’t these people utter a word?” Omar asked.

Taking a dig at the PC chairman Sajad Gani Lone, Omar said he was “exposed” when students and traders of Kashmir were harassed and beaten in different Indian cities.
“Sajad Lone has often described Narendra Modi as his elder brother, but I want to ask where Sajad and his so-called elder brother were when students and traders of Kashmir were facing harassment in various Indian cities?” Omar said. “While our highway is being banned for civilian traffic, thus pushing our people to extreme hardships, why can’t Sajad Lone seek his brother Modi’s intervention in having such restrictions removed?”

Omar said it was National Conference that passed five per-cent reservation bill for Pahari-speaking people, but “it saw no forward movement in the PDP-BJP led coalition government and finally it was reduced to three percent in the governor’s administration”.

He assured the people that once National Conference will form the government, it will provide five percent reservation to the Pahari-speaking people. Hitting out at the Peoples Democratic Party for its “failure” to fulfill its election promises, Omar said: “What happened to those power projects which PDP promised to bring back to the state? What happened to restoration of peace talks between India and Pakistan that PDP used to say was a part of their ‘agenda of alliance’ with the BJP.”

“The much-hyped trade between the divided parts of Kashmir has not benefitted the people of Uri. Their role has been confined to labour purposes only. But once the NC government is formed, it will provide the right opportunity to the people of Uri to be among strong stakeholders in this trade,” Omar said. He said the PDP and its ally approved the food security bill (FSB) and the goods and services tax (GST) “despite knowing that it will prove disastrous for the people of J&K”.

Highway ban collective punishment for people: Retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi
Retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, National Conference candidate for Anantnag Parliamentary constituency on Saturday termed the ban on civilian traffic on the highway as “collective punishment” for the people.
“The anti people decision amounts to gross violation of human rights and wrongful restraint on the movement of the people, having disastrous fallout on academic career of thousands of students, livelihood of people, lives of patients in need of immediate healthcare and would put general public to huge inconvenience,” Justice Masoodi said in a statement.

He said that the authorities are emboldened to take such anti-people decisions, lacking justification on any ground whatsoever, due to overtures of PDP to anti-Jammu and Kashmir forces and facilitating their entry into state’s political landscape.
Justice Masoodi said, “Mass arrests, detention of religious leaders, crackdown on socio-religious organizations stated that ban on movement on the main highway appears to be forerunner of more anti-people programs planned in days to come.”

While demanding immediate and complete withdrawal of the highway ban, Justice Masoodi warned people of “nefarious designs of the local collaborators of anti-Kashmir forces who during last five years made repeated assaults on autonomy and now wearing mask of 370 are out to do further damage to the autonomy and implement plans of anti-Kashmir forces. The clarifications and exemptions issued are not workable on ground and won’t give any relief as people would continue to be harassed in the name identity,” he added.