Srinagar: Members of the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) on Tuesday blocked the Amira Kadal road for about 30 minutes in protest against the Goods and Services Tax (GST), civilian killings, and attempts to abrogate Article 35A of the Indian Constitution.
The protesters first assembled at the Press Enclave near Lal Chowk, carrying placards and banners, some of which read, “Stop innocent killings in Kashmir”, “Roll back GST”, “Abolition of Article 35A not acceptable”.
KEA co-chairman Farooq Ahmed Dar addressed the media and termed GST as a direct attack on the fiscal autonomy of the state. “GST will take away our fiscal autonomy and will dilute the special status of the state. The PDP-BJP government is implementing the agenda of the RSS,” Dar said.
He added that while the wounds inflicted through the GST were still fresh, another blow was being readied with the questioning of the constitutional validity of Article 35A.
KEA members then tried to march towards the Civil Secretariat but were interrupted by police near the Tyndale Biscoe School. Police detained Farooq Ahmed Dar and others who were part of the march.
Meanwhile, another protest, a silent sit-in, was held by several members of Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee (JKCC) for one hour near the clock tower at Lal Chowk.
Protesters sat carrying placards in their hands and had their mouths covered to symbolise gags imposed on their freedom to protest. They also highlighted on banners the words spoken by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: “The dream of economic integration is fulfilled.”
Zahoor Ahmad Tramboo, a member of the JKCC, told reporters that “the recent statement of the government (of India) that the dream of economic integration of J&K has been fulfilled is a matter of concern for every citizen of the valley. We have been paying taxes before and will continue to do so, but this new law has compromised our fiscal autonomy and surrendered the sovereignty of the state, or whatever was left of it,” he said.
Fayaz Ahmad Punjabi, an office bearer of Kashmir Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told Kashmir Reader that the state government had deceived trade bodies by breaking the promise of not extending GST to the state. “When our delegations held meetings with the government, Mehbooba Mufti and Muzafar Hussain Beigh assured us that the state government would draft a separate document that will allow them to create the state’s own GST. But a few days later we were shocked to see the government surrendering the state’s fiscal autonomy before the central government,” he said.