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Death, Decry, Dispatch: Ex-MLA’s Crusade Exposing Kashmir Highway Horrors

Death, Decry, Dispatch: Ex-MLA’s Crusade Exposing Kashmir Highway Horrors

As the tragic terrain is endlessly giving sleepless nights to travellers from Kashmir, the recent death of a Srinagar man has made the former MLA spill the beans about the dangerous road project.


In the first week of January 2022, Adil left home to attend some engagement outside the valley. 

He was happy and full of life.

With traffic department issuing no warning signs, he embarked on the perilous journey on the fair-weather highway—the only surface link connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the world.

Crisscrossing countless conflict and climatic barriers, when this Srinagar resident reached Ramban, a landslide-prone mountain suddenly bombarded boulders on the thoroughfare. 

Adil tried to evade the natural assault by speeding up his car. But the swift sliding cut him short and buried him inside his vehicle. 

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The familiar death knell halted the highway for hours together.

It took the road-clearance authority lot of efforts to send another body bag to Kashmir — where highway horrors are known to torment families just like the stretched strife.

But for a change, the death ended the self-censored silence over the recurrent highway deaths. 

Near the spot where Adil lost his life, an erstwhile lawmaker came out to play a probing newsman. 

Highway blocked due to landslide. / Photo: Web Archives

Ashok Kumar looked angry and agitated when he castigated New Delhi and Raj Bhavan for failing to install human-safety measures in the dangerous landslide area along the highway.

“They’ve made the highway a death trap, especially from Chaderkote to Ramban which is the landslide-prone zone. Countless lives have been consumed in landslides here,” Kumar said.

Holding the central and local government responsible for these highway deaths, the former legislator said the ongoing road construction has made mountains more prone to erosion. 

“If you’re spending crores of rupees on the 4-laning, the government should also prefer safety to protect human lives,” he said. 

“While these mountains are constantly sliding, the travellers either get buried under debris or plunge into the Chenab river along with their vehicles. This is a crisis situation.”

But what the ex-member of the erstwhile state legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir calls a crisis situation has already become a curse for Kashmiris. 

“We’re risking our lives just to play vehicles on this route,” said Umar Bhat, a driver regularly ferrying Srinagar-Jammu passengers on the highway. 

“The situation becomes more dangerous during winters when the road condition gets completely worsened and dilapidated.”

A lifeline to the Kashmir valley, the highway—NH 44—with a total length of above 300 km passes through a series of dangerous mountains up to Jammu. Even though termed as an “unnatural highway”, all supplies including foods, vegetables and other life-saving essentials are transported through it from Jammu to Srinagar.

Srinagar-Jammu Highway. / Photo: Web Archives

The passengers frequenting this perilous stretch for mundane movement share their own nightmarish travel experiences.

“Traveling on this highway is too troubling and tiresome,” said Mohammad Ashraf, a businessman from Srinagar. “That’s why I normally prefer costly air travel as it gives some assurance of safe travel.”

As per the official data, over 500 of the total 24,200 accidental deaths have occurred on Srinagar-Jammu Highway alone in the last four years in Jammu and Kashmir.

“By any standards, it’s a huge number,” Ashok Kumar said. “This accidental jinx should force the government to rethink and install safety measures on the highway.”

But in absence of such measures, he said, poor people are getting killed, while contractors are earning crores from the “perilous project”. 

“At the end of the day, our people like Adil are getting killed for none of their faults,” Ashok said. “We need to challenge this death trap situation, otherwise it will consume us all!”

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