The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been observing with growing concern the unleashing of – what could possibly only be referred to as “Operation Bedlam” – on the helpless citizens of Kashmir.
President KCCI Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said that deliberate leaking of otherwise classified information regarding movement of troops, official orders and details of meeting discussions, issuance of orders liable to create panic in the public in addition to the rumours and propaganda have resulted in pushing the State towards a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
He said that the latest in this series is the Government Order No. Home-881 of 2019 dated 02.08.2019 issued by Principal Secretary of Government, Home Department.
“The order states that in view of latest intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible,” said KCCI President while addressing a press conference in Srinagar.
“Simultaneously, a major operation in which vehicles of the SRTC and other Government vehicles were mobilised to shift tourists and yatris back,” he said.
“Read with a circulation of other reports of stationing of 35,000 additional troops, putting IAF on high alert, disarming of sections of the J&K Police, shifting of students from NIT and other educational institutions, disallowing free movement of civilians and political leaders triggered public hysteria in Kashmir,” he added.
He said that the first response of the public was the panic stocking of essentials like provisions, petrol and withdrawal of cash from ATM’s. As a result, petrol pumps, ATM’s and shops were dry by late evening. The population is being exposed to undesirable psychological games. The order has not only forced tourists and yatris to leave the valley but has also triggered a migration of the workforce and labour working in various business, developmental and infrastructural projects in the State.
“The clarification by the spokesperson of the Home Department could not explain the need for issuance of such an order and does not appear plausible. Change in policy has been evident from February 2019 and since then the people of Kashmir have been at the receiving end,” said KCCI president.
He said that the tourism, horticulture and other sectors of our economy suffered tremendous losses due to the decision of the Government to restrict the movement of civilians on the only road link of Srinagar-Jammu.
“The order has not only managed to pour water over the efforts of the State Government for tourism promotion and broken the back of our tourism sector, but it has also in a single fell swoop caused irreversible damage to the economy of the State. A breakdown of the economy is imminent,” said KCCI president.
“Statements issued by leaders belonging to the ruling party infer that the Central Government is planning a major operation in Kashmir. Whether the offensive is in the shape of making changes to the Special Status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir or operation is still not clear,” he said.
“What is clear is that whatever the powers that be a plan, requires the stationing of an unprecedented number of troops in the Valley. More than three times the number required for holding of elections. It also requires that the Valley is sanitized from the presence of tourists, yatris and non-Kashmiri people in Kashmir in connection with work and education. Whatever the Government plans, it is clear that it would be detrimental to the interests of people of the State and requires the use of force to control the population. A situation wherein even the State Police cannot be fully trusted by the Central Government,” he added.
“On behalf of the business community, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry demands the restoration of a sense of security amongst the general public, proper assessment of business losses caused and protection against future losses,” said KCCI President.