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Closure of National Highway causes problems in Kashmir Valley

A file photo of the Jammu-Srinagar highway.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Abdul Rehman Ganai, 61, a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patient from south Kashmir’s Anantnag, who lost his son during a street protest in 2016, is likely to miss his check-up with the Valley’s leading psychiatrist, Dr. Arshad Hussain, this Sunday, as the ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the 271-km National Highway 44 in Kashmir will be enforced for convoy movement.

Dr. Hussain is among many leading doctors of the Valley who meet patients on Sundays in towns located on the flanks of the highway. “Due to my week-long busy schedule in Srinagar, I was available only on Sundays to patients in Anantnag town. Many people from far-flung areas, who could not otherwise make it to Srinagar, would come for consultations. We have decided to stop the practice for the time being,” Dr. Hussian, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, told The Hindu.

The doctor said he sees over 100 patients on Sundays as, “Kashmir is witnessing a multi-fold increase in patients with mental health disorders in the face of heightened violence in recent years.”

The closure of the highway on Sundays and Wednesdays, as a preventive measure against suicide bombing attacks after the Pulwama incident, is likely to impact the State’s tourism, horticulture and education sectors, apart from patient care, according to locals.

Families need permission from police authorities for any inter-district movement on the days of the closure. “My daughter’s wedding season is on Wednesday. I am not sure about the process that will allow safe and unhindered passage of groom from Anantnag to Pulwama,” said Shahnawaz Ahmad Dar, an orchardist from Pulwama.

Meanwhile, in a formal order issued by the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Anantnag, a family has been given permission for vehicular movement towards the bride’s home in Jammu’s Doda for the coming Wednesday.

“Danish Ali, son of Showkat Ali Bhat from New Qazi Bagh Anantnag, accompanied by 12 persons be allowed to move from Anantnag to Doda in connection with their marriage ceremony on April 6-7 after proper frisking and security check. The permission is valid for two days only,” reads the order.

Facing condemnation from political parties and civil society groups, Divisional Commissioner-Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, has offered “permission to movement of the emergency vehicles, including ambulances, school buses and other essential services,” for what is becoming a poll issue in south Kashmir.

“Unsatisfied” with Mr. Khan’s assurances, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader M.Y. Tarigami demanded complete revocation of the order. “The highway is the only road link that connects Kashmir with the rest of the country. This is completely choking the freedom of movement for lakhs of residents. It is unheard of in recent history,” Mr. Tarigami said.

“It’s a measure of collective punishment of the people,” said Justice Hasnain Masoodi, National Conference’s (NC) candidate for Anantnag seat, calling the decision “anti-people.”

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 11:26:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/closure-of-national-highway-causes-problems-in-kashmir/article26758060.ece

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