Two Kashmir residents were found dead inside a load carrier at Banihal along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway, which remained closed for vehicular traffic for the second day on Sunday following snowfall.
22-year-old Shabir Ahmad Mir and 30-year-old Majid Gulzar, both residents of Kralpora village of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, were on way to Srinagar but left stranded after snowfall around Jawahar Tunnel forced closure of the highway early Saturday.
Officials said the duo was found unconscious inside their vehicle this morning and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where both of them were declared brought dead.
It was not immediately clear whether they died of severe cold or asphyxiation, the officials said, adding that it was reported that they had kept heater switched on for warmth during the night.
The death of the duo sparked violent protests by drivers and their co-passengers at Railway Chowk Banihal.
Senior police and civil officers rushed to the spot along with reinforcements and managed to bring the situation under control after chasing away a stone-pelting crowds. The protesters were shouting anti-Indian and pro-freedom slogans, witnesses told local news outlets.
Holding the Indian administration in Kashmir responsible for the death of the duo, the protesters alleged that the government should have allowed the stranded vehicles through the recently-completed Banihal-Qazigund tunnel.
Meanwhile, the officials said the 270-km highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the World, is likely to open later in the day.
The highway was cleared of multiple landslides between Nashri and Banihal, while the snow clearance operation is in progress on both the sides of Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to the Kashmir Valley, they said.