KL NEWS NETWORK
For the people of Zainakote in Srinagar outskirts, the setting up of Hindustan Machine Tools watch factory three decades ago was a boon for them that changed their fortunes by offering jobs and monetary benefits. But, not now anymore!
The production at the watch factory has completely stopped and it is offering no jobs, the factory is “worth nothing for them”. “Adding to their misery was the setting up of a CRPF camp” inside the factory.
Locals allege that with the presence of paramilitary troopers from past four years the factory has turned into a “death trap” for them.
The killing of Gowhar Nazir Dar by a bullet allegedly fired by the CRPF men stationed in the factory camp has “aggravated such a feeling among locals”.
Habibullah Dar, 62, told KNS that HMT set up its watch factory in Zainakote in 1971 when the state was ruled by Ghulam Mohammad Bakhshi, who laid its foundation stone in the same year.
After four years, the factory was inaugurated by then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi on 14 October 1971 with much fanfare, Dar said.
“We gave land for the establishment of this factory, but now we are getting bullets back and our youth are ruthlessly being killed, maimed and injured,” Dar said.
“One more youth Muzamil was rendered disabled after hit by a bullet fired by troops stationed in the watch factory camp,” they said, adding many other youth were also injured.
Established on 452 kanals of farmland, the factory changed the lives of the people “for good”.
“We were then young men and the factory created ample opportunities for us to earn our livelihood. About 70 locals were employed by the factory,” Dar said, who was one among those employees.
Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, another resident, said that hundreds of families earned their livelihood after the factory was set up.
After 2005, manufacturing of watches stopped in the factory.
“In March 2011, the factory that brought smiles on our face three decades ago became a centre of fear for us,” Sofi said.
Sofi was mentioning about Central Reserve Police Force that “forced its entry into the factory.”
“Zainakote was a peaceful area before 2011. But after the camp was established peace has been torn away by shelling and firing by the CRPF,” the two elderly men said.
“Our children are no safer here because of the presence of the camp,” they said.
The residents were pointing to the killing of Gowhar Nazir Dar of Mustafabad colony in Zainakote area. They have now formed an association to demand the removal of the camp from the area.
“Gowhar was killed by the CRPF men of this camp barely 700 meters away from it when he was with his cousin to buy milk from the market,” they said.
After Dar’s killing, the residents are now gearing up for the demand of shifting the camp from the factory.
Under the banner of Human Welfare Association, the elders of Zainakote have decided to pursue for the removal of the camp “so that our children feel safe the way we felt in 70’s.”
“We have appealed the government to fulfil our demand. The land can be utilized for some college, hospital, industry or any useful area that benefits us. Not the camp which kills us,” they said.