Syed Junaid Hashmi
Katra: Two protesters were injured while 8 others were taken into preventive custody when the agitating traders clashed with police in Katra over the issue of Katra-Adhkuwari link road being constructed by Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) to operate Yatra.
The Lathicharge as well as arrest of the leaders of the traders has resulted in traders of entire Katra Township observing a complete Bandh. Prior to this, the traders of Ban Ganga and Charanpadhuka had announced an indefinite Bandh since they claim that they are likely to get directly affected if the Board succeeds in constructing the alternate route via Adhkuwari.
But when the police resorted to the use of force, traders of the entire Katra Township joined them and have threatened to extend the Bandh if the board does not stop the work. The clash took place when the agitating traders’ along-with Ponneywallas tried to march towards Katra-Adhkuwari link road where the board has started the construction work for alternate route towards the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. Police resorted to Lathi-charge to prevent agitators from reaching the site of the work where section 144 has been imposed and the construction is going on under heavy police presence. This was followed by arrest of 8 leaders of the agitating traders.
The injured are yet to be identified while the leaders of the traders who have been arrested include Prabhat Singh, Sohan Singh, Karan, Sohan, Raman, Kewal Singh and Rakesh.
The traders of the ancient route of the Yatra have also joined the protestors. A protestor namely Sonu Son of Rano tried to immolate himself but was prevented by the police from doing so, said the eyewitnesses. The two factions are virtually on warpath after the board decided to alter the route towards the Bhawan, the place where the temple of Hindu Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi is.
Traders are demanding that the old route which passes through the main bazaar is not abandoned since that would impact their business. But the board which has already completed the track through Baalni is adamant on changing the route. Board officials who do not wish to come on record told Kashmir Life that the new route would make it convenient for the pilgrims to reach the temple premises by buses.
“The pilgrims would not be required to track 10 kilometres distance by foot. Instead, they would be dropped AT Bhawan by bus. Traders fear drop in their business if this route is used which is just a myth,” said an official. He added that the board would not allow the traders to create problems.
On the others hand, traders maintain that they would not allow the shrine board to destroy their business. “This will have serious impact on our business. The pilgrims would not come to this side since they would be straightway dropped at Bhawan. Already, the helicopter arrive has impacted our business. Now this bus service lead to permanent destruction of our business,” said Prem Kumar, a hotelier in Katra.