Don’t observe hartal on 5 August, police directs traders, shopkeepers

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The police in Srinagar summoned traders and shopkeepers and directed them to keep their business establishments open and not observe a shutdown on Thursday, the second anniversary of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s limited autonomy.

Several markets’ and traders’ representatives in Srinagar told The Kashmir Walla that they were called to police offices and directed to keep shops and markets open.

“SSP (Srinagar) told us that whether you come or not, shops should remain open on August 5,” said Bashir Ahmad, General Secretary of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation and also President of Maulana Azad Road Traders Association.

Kashmir’s limited autonomy was abrogated two years ago and tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the decision when parliament scrapped Article 35A and diluted Article 370, the two laws which had guaranteed demographic protection to Jammu and Kashmir as well as the autonomous status to the region.

The traders’ leader said that it is for the first time in the past three decades they have received such a summon.

“How can we impose this (direction) on shopkeepers, it has been their own choice whether to keep shops open or close,” said Ahmad, adding that he has communicated the police’s direction among the federation and the association members.

Manzoor Ahmad Mir, president of Regal Lane Traders’ Association in Srinagar’s central commercial hub of Lal Chowk, said he was among the 20 to 25 representatives who were called for the meeting held at the police’s Kothi Bagh office. He said the meeting was held this week and chaired by SSP Srinagar who directed to keep shops open on August 5.

“They (police) told us that they have talked with all the (trade and shopkeeper) unions of Srinagar including those in the downtown area in this regard,” Mir said and added that last year on August 5 they were also made to keep their shops open.

Mir further said that they told the police that if all shops in the city will be open we will also keep our shops open.

The culture of observing hartals – on death anniversaries of militant leaders as well as major political events – has remained embedded with Kashmir’s insurgency since it erupted three decades ago. 

The shutdowns were mainly observed on the call of Hurriyat Conference leaders, referred to as separatists by the Indian government, who have remained out of circulation for the last two years now.

The police this week said a call for shutdown on August 5, circulated online and attributed to Syed Ali Geelani, was “fake” and reported that “as per family sources” of Geelani was issued by “someone from Pakistan”. It warned against the circulation of the call.

Tanushree, SP (East) Srinagar city whose office is housed inside Kothi Bagh police complex where the meeting with traders was held, confirmed to The Kashmir Walla that the meeting with traders was held.

She said that the meetings have been conducted with traders all over Srinagar. “From our side, (the position was) that the government will not support any hartal. We want everything to be normal. As it is today, it should be (like that) tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.”

“It is a policy now that hartal would not be supported. We called them (traders) to tell them that we do not want hartals. All people should go towards normalcy … whether it is August 5, 13 July or other anniversaries are not to be observed. Everything is normal now, we also want Kashmir to be normal now,” she said.

The police officer warned of action against the violators and said: “Obviously, this is the decision of the government and they have to support it.”

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