Nasir Khuehami and Ummar Jamal
Historic Mughal Road, an alternative road, to connect the bordering districts of Rajouri and Poonch to Srinagar continues to be closed since December last year. The road was closed following massive snowfall at Pir ki Gali and in the adjoining region more than four months ago— last winter.
The 84-kilometre road traces a historic route used in the Mughal period over the Pir Panjal Pass, at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft). The road connects Poonch and Rajouri to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley and reduces the distance between Shopian and Poonch from 588 km to 126 km.
The road continues to be closed causing a lot of vexation and suffering to the common masses.
An alternate to Jammu- Srinagar National Highway, the road connects the Kashmiri valley via Shopian with the Pir Panchal region. The road remains closed for months together during winters because of heavy snowfall. The road passes through Buffliaz, Behramgalla, Chandimarh, Poshana, Chattapani, Peer Ki Gali, Aliabad, Zaznar, Dubjan, Hirpora, and Shopian.
The Pir Panjal region lacks facilities like schools, healthcare, colleges etc. due to which people are compelled to repeatedly travel to Kashmir. In times of medical emergencies, this road proves guardian angel to serious patients. But due incessant closure of the highway patients has to undergo a lot of travail and toil.
“Tribals, patients and students have to suffer the most because of the closure of the roads,” says Guftar Ahmed Chowdary, a politician from the Pir Panchal region.
“Rajouri and Poonch have a dearth of medical facilities due to which patients prefer availing of medical treatment in Srinagar. We have been earnestly requesting the authorities for resumption of the highway, but our pleas fell on deaf ears.”
Thousands of students from the Poonch and Rajouri districts acquire education in different institutions of Kashmir like Kashmir University, Central University of Kashmir (CUK), NIT Srinagar, etc. They have to routinely travel to Srinagar and from Srinagar to Rajouri, But due to the closure of the highway, they have to face lots of hardships.
“It has been weeks now since snow clearance on Mughal Road was completed. Despite that authorities are still not allowing vehicular movement on this major route,” Arshad Choudhary, student of CUK, told Maktoob.
“Lieutenant Governor must ensure that the students travel hassle-free to Srinagar & other parts of the valley to pursue their academic or professional studies”, he added.
Undoubtedly, the 84 km road is extremely important for more than 11.9 lack people of the Ponch and Rajouri district. Since it remains closed for six months or more due to landslides and during bad weather conditions, the people of these areas have been voicing that the road needs to be made an “all-weather” highway to end the suffering of people once for all.
DDC member from Nagali Sahiba Poonch Dr Nazia Ghani said, “many students across the region are pursuing their studies in different colleges and universities in Kashmir. There is a distance of less than 200 km from Poonch & Rajouri to Srinagar via the Mughal road. But due to the closure of the Mughal road, people are covering more than 400 km distance. Even after snow clearance, the administration is taking so much time to make decisions.”
Hundreds of Activists and students started the trend #OpenMughalRoad as well on Twitter. Using the hashtag, they have demanded authorities reopen the road at the earliest.
Voicing his Concern on the issue, Former Minister Choudhary Zulfikar Ali said, ”the closure of Mughal road is causing mental harassment to people of Pir Panchal. Seasonal migration is being delayed since people of Rajouri and Poonch migrate during summers to upper reaches of Kashmir by adopting this road”.
Saima Choudhary, a young activist from Poonch claims that “moneyed people can easily pass via this route while poor have no voice. It’s Ramadan and nomadic Gujjar Bakerwals are doing their annual migration from the Plains to the upper regions of Kashmir.”
Due to the closure of the Mughal road, they are also suffering badly. The administration is least bothered over the suffering of Gujjar Bakerwal people.”
Murtaza Kohli, whose kin is undergoing treatment in SKIMS Srinagar, said, “common people are facing an ordeal because of the closure of Mughal road. Influential and affluent people are allowed to travel on the highway, it is only the poor folks who suffer”.
Cancer patients undergoing treatment in SKIMS have to travel 300 KMS to reach Jammu. Therefrom there they have to travel to Srinagar via the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which also always remains in the peril of being closed because of the landslides at Banihal and Ramban.
“Closing highway in winter is justifiable, but closing it in April doesn’t hold water. when Zojila pass and Gurez road has been thrown open for vehicular movement, why not a Mughal road?” asks Sahid Ayoub, a research scholar at KU from the Poonch district.
Showkat Chaudhary, vice president of Jammu and Kashmir Gujjar Bakerwal Youth Conference said that due to the closure of the road the business is hit.
“In my opinion, the highway is closed for the poor and common masses only and not the opulent people. They travel the road normally, he added.
Executive Engineer of Mechanical Engineering Department Shopian clarified that the snow clearance was completed on 02 April and the road is ready for regular traffic plying.
“The decision of opening the road for the general public lies with the administration and is not within our domain.”
However, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole said the Mughal road will be opened in the coming days. It got delayed only due to some road restoration and patching work.