Srinagar: The business community of Kashmir has called for a ‘Kashmir bandh’ on Saturday against the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Jammu and Kashmir after the government failed to convince them of its earlier claim of having amended the new tax regime to make it in compliance with the special status of J&K.
Chairman Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association (KTMA) Mohammad Yaseen Khan told Kashmir Reader that ministers were circulating a rumour that the government had made changes in the GST bill due to be brought in by New Delhi, and that the amendments had ensured that the special status of J&K would be safeguarded. “But when we ask them where exactly they have done this, they keep mum.
“There should be no hesitation for the government to disclose changes they have made in the original bill to safeguard our special status. From the day the government claimed to have amended the bill, we have been repeatedly asking them to make the changes public so that the confusions the GST has created would get cleared,” Khan said.
Khan said that they have invited all traders including from across the Pir Panjal areas to participate in a sit-in at Lal Chowk as a protest to warn the government of serious repercussions if it goes ahead with the GST implementation.
“Even if we have to lay down our lives or bear crores worth of losses, we are ready to do so, but we won’t allow GST implementation if it threatens our autonomy in any way. We have seen enough treachery on the part of governments past and present, but will not accept it from now onwards. We appeal to all traders, shopkeepers and the general public to join us in our resistance,” said Khan.
Ridiculing the government statement that said that the government of India would not allow further amendments in its constitution as it had already amended it 46 times in the past, Khan said the “argument holds no rational ground” when offered as justification for implementing the act in its present form.
The strike call comes a day after the government once again failed to break the ice on implementing the GST in the state as the All Party Consultative Group meeting called to build consensus on the tax regime was inconclusive.
Addressing a press conference here, KTMF ex-president Mohammed Sadiq Baqal said that their body had time and again made requests to the government to make public their stand on the implementation of the Act.
“But they never bothered to respond. The situation has now come where there are apprehensions of another uprising. They are still not disclosing the details of what they have done to protect the autonomy of J&K. Whatever has happened in the past or may happen in the future, the government would be solely responsible,” Baqal said.
Referring to the incident a few days ago where the KTMF had asked the commercial taxes department to reveal to them what would be the nomenclature of the tax system after GST is implemented here, Baqal said that even government departments didn’t know much about the new tax regime.
“They told us to bring 50 transporters to their department so that they could make them aware about the new tax system. When we went there, they gave us a general commentary on the GST, but nothing exclusive. Even they themselves didn’t know much about it,” he said.
Acting chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) Farooq Ahmad Dar told Kashmir Reader that they were not protesting against any single party or individual but were fighting to safeguard the special status of J&K enjoyed by it under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
“Since 1947, every government which has ascended to power here has eroded the special status of J&K. Everybody tried to follow the footsteps of New Delhi to weaken the economy of Kashmir and Kashmiris themselves. Now, the government has come up with another blow in the form of the GST which we fight tooth and nail and won’t allow in any way,” Dar said.
The ‘Kashmir bandh’ call is also supported by transporters’ associations, the mutton dealers’ association, the houseboat owners’ association and other smaller bodies that are part of KTMF and KEA.