Traders taking part in protest march detained by police in Srinagar
Srinagar: Markets across Kashmir remained closed on Saturday in response to the shutdown call given by the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) to protest the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Police detained more than 50 traders who were taking part in a protest march from the Clock Tower towards Press Enclave in Lal Chowk area. In the old city, street clashes between local youths and government troops occurred in Habba Kadal, Darish Kadal, Safa Kadal and Nawa Kadal amid curfew-like restrictions imposed by the administration to prevent protests.
The government had imposed restrictions on Friday as well to prevent protests against the designation of United Jehad Council chief Syed Salahudin as a “global terrorist” by the United States. The government announced restrictions on Sunday again to prevent protests called by the resistance leadership against the killing of Lashkar militants and two civilians by government troops in Dialgam area of Anantnag.
Nearly 300 traders, among them officer-bearers of the KTMF, assembled at the Clock Tower at Lal Chowk on Saturday and held a sit-in protest against the government’s plan to implement the GST in Jammu and Kashmir. After the hours-long sit-in, the traders tried to march towards Press Enclave, but police swung into action and detained dozens of them. The detained traders were taken to police station Kothibagh and kept there.
KTMF President Mohammad Yaseen Khan told Kashmir Reader that the business community was not against the GST per se but only against GST in its current form. “We want the new tax law to be amended, taking into consideration the economic freedom and special status of J&K,” Khan said.
“The shutdown was observed as the state government had failed to amend the law and had not made public the changes it has assured to make in the law,” a trader who participated in the march said.
Shops, restaurants, petrol pumps and other business establishments remained closed across Kashmir. Public transport was also affected in Srinagar and in other district headquarters.
“The sit-in protest observed today was to warn the government of serious repercussions if it goes ahead with the GST implementation,” Khan said.
The Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) had supported the strike call. KEA acting chairman Farooq Ahmad Dar told Kashmir Reader that the alliance was fighting to safeguard the special status of J&K under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.
The ‘Kashmir bandh’ call was also supported by transporters’ associations, mutton dealers’ associations, houseboat owners’ association, and other smaller bodies that are part of KTMF and KEA.