community kitchen
A community kitchen in Jammu serving food to stranded Kashmir bound passengersTwitter

Thousands of Kashmir-bound passengers who were stuck in Jammu for over a week, desolated by the state government, have found chivalry from the locals, who have opened their homes and religious places to accommodate the travellers.

Scores of students, pilgrims, elderly and children were among the passengers who could not reach Srinagar and were either stuck in Jammu or along the Jammu-Srinagar highway due to inclement weather conditions and recurring landslides that killed nearly a dozen people in the past month.

The worries of the stranded passengers grew manifold as they ran short of clothes, food, medicine and other essential supplies while living on the roads. Although the government did manage to lift several hundred students and other passengers through two IAF aircraft, thousands of people who were travelling to Srinagar were left to fend for themselves in Jammu or on the highway.

Although, there were incidents of clashes reported between valley students and Jammu colleagues in a science college, the hospitality demonstrated by the people in Jammu and Qazigund regions has set an example of unity and generosity.

Many Sikh organisations in Jammu have started meal services (langars) for Kashmir-bound passengers and accommodated them at gurduwaras, especially when the hotel charges have risen astronomically during the past several weeks. 

The residents of Qazigund region on Srinagar-Jammu highway have set up community kitchens to serve drivers and passengers who are braving sub-zero temperatures and living under open sky.

Many passengers said that the state government did not come to their rescue and air travelling was out of question since the private airlines increased fares from Rs 5,000 to Rs 35,000 when the demand peaked.

The 300km-long Srinagar-Jammu highway, often called the lifeline of Jammu and Kashmir, connects the valley to the rest of the world. But the roads were closed for most parts of January and February owing to persistent snow and rain.

The mountainous terrain is also one of the riskiest roads in the country that has killed thousands of people till date either due to avalanches or accidents. 

The successive state governments often claimed to build an alternate highway route from the valley to Jammu, but the same has not been achieved. The only road link of the valley to the outside world has also witnessed restoration and upgradation works. However, the route poses a major risk to the lives of travellers and security men positioned there.