In an unprecedented move, the Jammu and Kashmir administration headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik has banned civilian traffic along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway for extended periods when the Amarnath Yatra convoys are on the move. The measure will remain in place for 46 days, until the conclusion of the pilgrimage.
According to an order issued by the state traffic police, no civilian vehicle -- other than those transporting Amarnath Yatra pilgrims -- will be allowed to move along the 97-km stretch from Qazigund to Nashri between 10 am and 3 pm.
The move is expected to cause major disruptions in the region, given that the Srinagar-Jammu highway is the "lifeline" connecting the Valley with the rest of the country. This is the first instance of an administration restricting civilian traffic along the highway to facilitate smooth movement of Amarnath Yatra convoys.
After the Pulwama terror attack, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had banned civilian traffic along the highway for two days a week to ensure the safety of military and CRPF convoys. Governor Satya Pal Malik faced severe criticism for the decision, and the ban was withdrawn after two months.
"There is some inconvenience, but it's in the larger interests of safety. We are monitoring the situation. Let's see how things go," said Dilbag Singh, Director General of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, adding that the people are "cooperating".
Dilbag Singh claimed that small issues emerging in the course of the ban will be sorted out at the local level. "I get regular feedback from field officers," he said.
The first batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims left for the hallowed cave shrine from the Baltal base camp this morning. Over 300 companies of security personnel have been deployed across the state to ensure their safety. Eight Amarnath Yatra pilgrims were killed and 19 injured when terrorists attacked a bus in Kashmir's Anantnag district on July 10, 2017.