SHOPIAN: On an anonymous call, delivered over the loudspeakers of local mosques, Shopian district shut again on Saturday for the third day straight against the arrest of two boys from Shopian town. The continuous shutdowns in the district have paralysed normal life and adversely affected the education of children studying in different government-run schools as well as private tuition centres.
On Wednesday last week, two boys, identified by the police as Ghulam Jeelani Turray, a resident of Malik Mohala, and Aaqib Ahmad, were arrested on stone-pelting charges.
The worst victims of the continuous shutdowns are local, small-scale shopkeepers and roadside vendors for whom this is the only source of income to feed their families. “I am hardly able to make two ends meet for my six-member family, even though I work from dawn to dusk selling fruits and vegetables. But the continuous shutdowns have left me and my family with no option but to beg,” says Bashir Ahmad, a local vendor.
Another shopkeeper, who runs a Kirana shop in Shopian market, told Kashmir Reader that his business, and that of others like him, fetches nothing but the shop owners’ rents. “The continuous shutdowns have broken our back; there is no one to hear us. On the one side the police have arrested two boys, and then unknown persons began ordering us to observe shutdown again,” said another shopkeeper, who wishes not to be named. He added, however, “If our shutdowns could solve the Kashmir issue, we are ready to shut our shops and businesses forever.”
One of the vendors told Kashmir Reader that those who were announcing shutdown calls have to see the economic condition of the local vendors. “If any one among them is ready to feed our children, they can announce shutdown for a complete year, and we are going to shut our carts,” says Manzoor Ahmad.
A group of shopkeepers told Kashmir Reader that they want the intervention of the Joint Resistance Leadership with regard to shutdowns. One of the shopkeepers said, “We appeal to the Hurriyat to look into this matter. We used to observe shutdown with all our heart on every call, but the anonymous calls announced over the loudspeakers of mosques have left us without bread for even two meals.”
The situation in Shopian remained calm for only three days since January 25, when an encounter took place at the district’s Choeigund-Adoo village between government forces and militants. A civilian, Shakir Ahmad Mir, was killed in the initial shootout, and two ladies were also critically injured during the encounter. Two militants from the Hizb ul Mujahideen were also killed in that encounter. On the second day of mourning for the militants, the army killed two civilians at Ganowpora village; according to the army, they had come under huge stone pelting. A 19-year-old civilian injured at Ganowpora later succumbed at SKIMS Srinagar.
On February 1, a 10-year-old boy – injured when a live shell he was playing with exploded in his hand – also succumbed at SKIMS. According to family sources, he had got the shell from the Adoo encounter site. In response, the shutdown continued in the district.
Later, after 10 days of complete shutdown, business establishments and shops remained open for only three days when again, on Wednesday evening, an anonymous announcement over the loud speakers of different mosques in the main town appealed to people to observe a complete shutdown once again. The shutdown call against the arrests of the two local youth entered its third day on Saturday.
All shops and business establishments remained closed in the main market while thin traffic plied the roads.
Eyewitness said that the window panes of at least three vehicles were damaged by stone pelters in the main town.
Another shopkeeper, who comes from Pulwama to earn his livelihood, told Kashmir Reader that he was planning to shift his shop out of Shopian. “We are hardly able to open our shops, the continuous shutdowns have put us into debt,” Irshad Ahmad said.
Senior Superintendent of Police Shopian Ambarkar Shriram Dinkar told Kashmir Reader that “some miscreants were using Masjids for announcing shutdown calls”.
“We are in touch with the management of these mosques, and hopefully such things should not happen again and hopefully it will stabilise very soon,” he said.
He added, however, that the situation is normal.
Shopian Deputy Commissioner Aijaz Asad did not answer repeated calls and messages from this reporter.