The road by the Jhelum

Print edition : April 22, 2005

At Chakothi on April 2, the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road gets ready. - ANJUM NAVEED/AP

"Nafrat ki deewaron ko gira kar hee dam lengey" (we will rest only after dismantling the walls of hatred), read signposts erected at crossings in Srinagar two years ago by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). No one would have thought that these politically motivated slogans would become reality one day. Today all roads seem to lead to Kaman Post, the last point at the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector, on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. The length of the road up to Kaman Post from Srinagar is 118.5 km.

The Srinagar-Jhelum Valley road, as it was known then, was the lone dependable connection between Kashmir and the rest of the world until the mid-1950s when the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, initiated construction of the Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Until then Srinagar was connected with Jammu by a smaller link called the Banihal Cart Road. When the tribesmen raided Kashmir in 1947, the only bridge near Kaman Post was damaged and repair work was taken up only recently by the armies of India and Pakistan.

The United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan used the road until the mid-1970s. When militancy broke out in 1989 it was declared out of bounds for civilian movement. Even passenger buses could not ply until the ceasefire in November 2003.

"It has been an uphill task to lay the road afresh," said Lt. Gen. Nirbhay Sharma, General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. "But the road is ready and is completely demined," he said. The entire three-kilometre stretch up to LoC was heavily mined mostly after Operation Prakaram in 2002 and the task of demining was taken up by the Engineer Corps of the Army. While the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is the main agency that did up the road, which was in a dilapidated condition for about 18 km, the Kaman Bridge was rebuilt by Army Engineers. The Lalpul (Red Bridge), which is the last point for vehicular traffic in normal days, has also been repaired and a bus had a trial run on it.

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed inspected the work on the road, as did the Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Joginder Jaswant Singh, twice.

Uri town, which otherwise was neglected, is emerging as a centre of activity. The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department is setting up a tourist centre at Salamabad village, 7 km from Uri. "We will try to put all the facilities at the centre, which will come up in prefabricated structures for the time being," said Mohammad Saleem Beg, Director-General of Tourism. Immigration and Customs checkpoints are coming up near Kaman Post. To ensure the security of the bus, a special police contingent will be deployed with it, besides two officials from the Intelligence Bureau. "There will be at least seven checkposts en route to the LoC," a senior police officer said.

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