Srinagar: Thousands of transporters and traders on Thursday blocked the main road in Batamaloo in protest against the J&K High Court order that asks for sealing the Batamaloo bus stand land.
A division bench of the High Court had last week directed the vice-chairman of the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) to ensure sealing of the land as the bus stand has been relocated to Parimpora. Following the order, SDA officials arrived at the bus stand along with police and paramilitary forces on Wednesday night to seize the land.
Early Thursday morning, protesters hit the streets carrying placards and raising slogans against state government. Police cane charged the protesters to disperse them and clear the road, which is one of the main arteries of traffic in Srinagar. Several persons were injured in the melee.
Protesters alleged that police action was unjustified because the protests were peaceful. However, a police official deployed outside the bus stand said that “someone from the crowd threw stones at them, forcing police to take action”.
Mushtaq Ahmad Lissa, chairman Western Bus Stand, told Kashmir Reader that traders as well as transporters have been protesting against the government. “Yesterday, at around 9:30 pm, police and SDA along with bulldozers came to seize the bus stand. The traders called us to tell that authorities have arrived to seal the bus stand, so all of us left our houses to support the traders and stopped them,” he said.
Protesters said that various transport and trade associations have been requesting government authorities not to relocate the bus stand because it would affect their businesses. “Government is well aware of the fact that there are thousands of traders dependent on this bus stand. Traders in its vicinity have to adjust loans, and if government relocates us, our entire business will be spoiled as we would not find customers,” Bashir Ahmad Rather, a member of coordination committee said.
Another member of the committee alleged that the city was congested because of lesser road space than needed to support vehicle numbers. “When there is limited space available on the roads, why does the government issue road permits to more vehicles? To hide their mistakes, they are blaming Batamaloo bus stand,” he said.
Haji Mohmmad Yousf, general secretary of the Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association, said that transporters had spoken to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufi over the issue. He also said that Parimpora truck yard does not have the capacity to accommodate the entire fleet of vehicles. “Their order says the 57 kanals of land has a capacity for 180 vehicles, which includes 80 buses, 80 Sumos, 80 mini vehicles and 40 autos, and they are asking us to shift 8,000 vehicles. Where shall I keep the rest of the vehicles?” he said, adding, “Had we allowed police and SDA officials to seize the bus stand, the vehicles would have jammed the roads all the way to Dalgate.”