Srinagar: While launching a crackdown on alleged stone-pelters in Soura locality, Police Station Soura has detained half-a-dozen street vendors over the last four days and has directed all other vendors not to install their carts and stalls in the market.
As per the vendors, who have been sitting idle for the last four days, the local police station is not allowing them to restore their routine business since Friday when the locality witnessed clashes between youths and government forces. While a few of their colleagues started their business the day after they were arrested and lodged at the police station.
A few of the arrested vendors, they identified as Mehraj-ud-din Shah, Farooq Ahmad, Sajad Ahmad and Shabir Ahmad, all living in the vicinity. “All of them have been picked up when they were carrying on their normal work,” the vendors said.
Bilal Ahmad, president of the Footpath Union at Soura market, told Kashmir Reader that police officials told them that the vendors created a jumble in the market that allegedly paved the way for stone-pelters to “create disturbances”.
“They have directed us not to install our carts here anymore. Since the last four days, we have sat idle in our houses. We have suffered heavy losses as our stuff, mainly fruits and vegetables, can’t remain fresh for long and is becoming wastage due to the police crackdown on us,” he said.
The street vendors at the market, the vendors say, sell a larger volume of goods than the established shopkeepers, ranging from fruits, vegetables, fast food and other eatables and daily usage items. As many as 400 people are said to be directly or indirectly involved in the street vendors’ business.
The crackdown on vendors, union members say, has also affected patient care at the two major hospitals that fall in the vicinity – the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and its maternity section across the road – as patients can’t find essential commodities like fresh fruits, bread and other items in the area.
“Since there was tension prevailing due to police action, we couldn’t approach the police station to enquire why we weren’t being allowed to carry out our normal work. If we are involved in any anti-state activities, then the police should tell us, but harassing us unnecessarily is not what we would expect,” the union said.
Superintendent of police Hazratbal Dawood Ayoub denied that the vendors were arrested in connection with stone-pelting.
“The arrests have nothing to do with the stone-pelting. A few vendors have been arrested after Srinagar Municipal Corporation officials asked the local police station to act on vendors hampering traffic moment. They were found impeding terrific movement, and that’s why they have been arrested,” he said.