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KCCI Urges J&K Admin for "Transparency" Amidst Ongoing Anti-Encroachment Drive

Anees Zargar |
Sheikh Ashiq in a presser said that there is a need to set accountability as the government-led evictions have targeted businessmen and shopkeepers putting livelihood at risk.

Image Courtesy: @IThekcc

Srinagar: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) on Thursday urged the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to bring transparency to the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, which many in the region have raised concerns against. 

President of KCCI Sheikh Ashiq in a presser at Srinagar said that there is a need to set accountability as the government-led evictions have targeted businessmen and shopkeepers putting the livelihood of thousands at risk.

“We activated all the channels with the authorities and informed them about the problems following which we were assured by the Lt. Governor that no poor shopkeeper or small business establishment will be touched. But unfortunately whatever has happened and is happening there seems to be no transparency,” Ashiq said.

The prominent trade body held a meeting with several trade leaders in the valley following which the president underlined that the traders and businessmen are deeply concerned about their future. 

“Whether it is Jammu or Kashmir, businessmen are concerned. There is an atmosphere of chaos and confusion,” Ashiq added. 

Ashiq said that they will not defend “chronic encroachment” or land mafia but at the same time, called for intervention on a humanitarian basis to address the issues of business establishments. 

“Despite having valid documents, the businessmen are being told that they have encroached land so there is a need for accountability on all sides. People don’t even know that they have encroached on the land. The authorities should issue orders to bring clarity in the matter,” he added.

The KCCI’s concern comes after the Srinagar district administration sealed as many as 25 shops in the central Aftab market of Lal Chowk Wednesday night. The shopkeepers, however, held a protest against the move and claimed that they were tenants of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) for nearly 50 years and termed it arbitrary.

“We have all the requisite documents and we have been paying the rent to the SMC for decades. How can it be an encroachment,” a shopkeeper told NewsClick after the incident.

The shops were later allowed to reopen but it is still unclear whether the dispute over the land is settled yet.

“We saw that yesterday some shops were sealed and today they were allowed to reopen. You can understand how it is. Businessmen in Kashmir have operated in worst conditions and now that there seemed to be an improvement we hope that there should be no disturbance,” Ashiq added.

The administration has been carrying out the anti-encroachment drive for weeks across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and has recovered land from top businessmen and politicians. There have, however, been incidents where they have been accused of retrieving properties from economically weaker sections despite assurances that they would not be “touched”.

Political parties in the region have lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led rule accusing them of using the drive to disempower the people in Jammu and Kashmir. Many have asked the administration to stop the drive to safeguard the livelihood and shelter of people.

Questioning the manner in which the drive is being carried, Apni Party leader, Ghulam Hassan Mir, said that the move has caused anxiety and fear among thousands of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The manner in which the anti-encroachment drive has been undertaken violates the norms of welfare and democratic state. Needless to say that in a welfare state, the government is obligated to provide homes to the homeless. There is no logic in rendering the people homeless by bulldozing their houses,” Mir said in a presser.

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