Srinagar: A partial shutdown across Kashmir Valley marked the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 and subsequent bifurcation which was carried out unilaterally by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government on August 5, 2019.
All shops and business establishments in Downtown area of Srinagar and city centre of Lal Chowk remained shut, however, several shop owners alleged they were forced by authorities to open the shops.
In Lal Chowk area, several traders accused the police authorities accompanied by men in civvies of breaking locks with iron rods and hacksaw blades to enforce reopening of the market. The charge was, however, denied by SP East Tanushree. “We did not do any of that we are providing them with security,” she said.
SP Tanushree was in the same market where shopkeepers alleged that the police broke their locks. Other policemen also present in the market did not allow the media to cover the incident.
“I was called by my son saying that they are trying to break the locks. We are caught between the devil and the deep sea,” a shopkeeper wishing anonymity told NewsClick.
Image Credit: Kamran Yousuf
The trade leaders said they had multiple meetings with both civil and police administration from past week and were directed not to observe shutdown.
Farhan Kitab, core member of All-India Retailers Association, said he was called by a revenue official and by the SSP (top police officer) Srinagar. “The revenue official said that 95% of the shops in Lal Chowk are on Nazool land – whose titles have been expired. The SSP told us that we should revive the economy of the region and not heed to hartal calls. I just want to say that we are a business community and do not have any political agenda,” he said.
Several trade leaders along with hundreds of politicians, activists, lawyers and religious preachers were arrested by authorities in the region ahead of the abrogation of Article 370. The unprecedented crackdown followed by restrictions on movement and communication resulted in economic losses worth nearly Rs 40,000 crore, according to estimates by trade bodies.
Critics termed the abrogation of Article 370 – a law that gave partial autonomous powers to the erstwhile state under the Indian Constitution – an “unpopular and arbitrary” move.
Former chief minister of J&K, Mehbooba Mufti, and ty workers from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) carried out a protest in Srinagar and Rajouri area of Jammu. The demonstrators termed August 5 as a “Black Day”.
“No words or pictures are enough to depict the pain, torment & upheaval inflicted upon J&K on this black day two years ago. When unbridled oppression is unleashed & gross injustice heaped there is no other choice but to resist to exist,” Mehbooba tweeted.
The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) led by incarcerated Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued a statement on the anniversary while calling for a dialogue between the governments of India and Pakistan.
“Going forward, APHC is convinced that the Government of India must accept the need to address the Kashmir dispute, engage with those who truly represent the political will and aspirations of its peoples, and diffuse the building geopolitical pressures in the region along its northern and western borders. APHC urges the government of India to resume engagement with the Government of Pakistan,” the APHC said.
The People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) expressed concern over the situation in J&K and resolved to continue the struggle for the restoration the "legitimate rights" of its people.
The alliance held a meeting of its constituents at its chairman and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah's residence in Gupkar area here.
The meeting was attended by the PAGD's vice-chairperson and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, its spokesperson and CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami and senior vice president of Awami national Conference Muzaffar Shah.
Speaking to reporters outside Abdullah's residence after the meeting, Tarigami said the alliance "reiterated our resolve to continue our struggle for restoration our legitimate rights".
"Despite tall claims of the government, the situation since August 5, 2019, is worsening day by day. They claimed that normalcy will be restored and violence will end, but look what they have said on the floor of Parliament recently in response to a question about statehood. The minister said that statehood will be restored only at an appropriate time when normalcy is restored," Tarigami said.
It meant that the situation "continues to be abnormal" and the claim of restoring peace in the region has not been achieved by the measures initiated on that 'unfortunate day of August 5, 2019".
(inputs from PTI)