Riyaz Ul Khaliq
Asking Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, to snap alliance right wing Hindu nationalist, BJP, if she can’t stop killings in Kashmir, Kashmir based traders Sunday sought removal of bunkers from main market places and educational institutions in Handwara.
Traders representing KCC&I, KEA (K), KTMF and FCIK, in a press conference in Srinagar, said that the democratic space for protests in Kashmir has been squeezed.
Five persons were killed by forces in North Kashmir since last Tuesday during protests following an allegation of molestation bid by an army man posted in main Handwara chowk. Valley witnessed complete shutdown for consecutive four days since then and normal resumed only this morning with strict restrictions still in place in Kupwara areas.
“Our youth protested against an incident involving a girl and fired upon them indiscriminately,” said Muhammad Yasin Khan, chairperson of his faction of Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA). He skipped detailing about the alleged molestation bid by an army man saying “the matter was sub-judice”.
“It doesn’t happen anywhere that forces open fire instantly but in Kashmir it is altogether different,” he said flanked by KCC&K president Mushtaq Ahmad Wani and president Handwara Traders Federation, Aijaz Ahmad Sofi. “Our youth were not wielding guns.”
Khan said that it was because of “Almighty’s mercy that a traders delegation was able to reach Handwara”. “Because we were trade leaders, we made it to Handwara and visited victim families,” he said. “It has been turned into army garrison,” he added, “it is a no-go area for common people.”
Lashing out at New Delhi based media, Khan said, “where are those who ran 24*7 coverage for NIT issue? Is human life so cheap?” “It is their responsibility to take this matter to the court of law.”
Criticising J&K government for adopting “two different approaches” viz-a-viz Handwara and NIT incidents, Khan said, “deputy CM Nirmal Singh rushed to Srinagar after Union Home Minister bypassed J&K Government and intervened in NIT case and no one from J&K government bothered to visit victim families in Handwara.”
“If you can’t allow protests, what should we do?” the traders asked Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti.
Saying that forces in Kashmir are covered under controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the traders asked PDP led J&K government to clear its stand where it stood on removal of this law. “We are talking about Bijli, Paani, Sadak; other things we don’t accept. We ask PDP about its promises,” Khan said.
Rejecting government probe in to the incident, the traders demanded investigation by an international independent agency.
Answering a question, Khan said, “if Ms Mufti can’t stop killings in Kashmir she has an option to pull out of alliance with BJP.”
Speaking on the occasion, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) president, Mohammad Ashraf Mir said asked CM Mehbooba, “tell us when shall this bloodbath stop?”
“Through your party, RSS agenda is being implemented in Kashmir. We had told late Mufti Sahab,” he said.
“It was unfortunate that Ms Mehbooba went to Kupwara instead of Handwara wherefrom the incidents started. She could not move out of the hall (TRC Kupwara) or she did not wish to visit the bereaved families,” he alleged.
Asking Ms Mufti to end “marriage of inconvenience”, Mir said, “your own people are against the Agenda of Alliance.”
He further said that two different yards sticks are being adopted between Jammu and Kashmir regions. “If a road accident takes place in Doda, by evening Rs one lakh is announced as relief and it is altogether different in Kashmir scenario.”
The traders also demanded registration of FIRs against those involved in killing the five persons in Kupwara.