Sopore: Transporters, especially cab drivers, in northern Kashmir districts are alleging the army is harassing them and at times forcing them to handover their vehicles.
The “continuous harassment” had created resentment among the transporters, who complain of highhandedness by army, especially in areas like Seelu, Sopore and Wadoora.
“Although it has been prevalent since the early 1990s, in between we witnessed fewer cases of cars and taxis being snatched by the army. In recent times they have started the process of harassing us again,” Ghulam Nabi, (name changed) a cab driver from Sopore told Kashmir Reader.
Another cab driver speaking on the condition of anonymity alleged that drivers are at times left on their own in the cold on highways till the army men return with their cabs hours later.
“Many times they take our identity cards and ask us to come to their camp to collect the cabs. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Another SUV owner from Brath village of Sopore said that the army personnel from local camps know who owns what type of vehicle, as they have conducted door to door census in the area.
“So what they do is, they call us on our phone numbers and ask for our vehicle, we cannot say no, thinking about consequences, we drop the vehicle at their camp and they call us when they are done with their work, Sometimes it takes two days to return the vehicle,” he said.
Recently Engineer Rasheed, former legislator from Kupwara’s Langate constituency, raised the issue about snatching of passenger vehicles by army camp at Seelu, and threatened of protests if the activity was not stopped.
Rasheed told Kashmir Reader that recently four men travelling in a Tata Mobile vehicle were stopped by Seelu camp and taken inside. The men were travelling to Rasheed’s place when the incident occurred.
“Even their mobile phones were snatched. When they did not reach to us, we looked here and there and came to know that they have been taken by Seelu camp and when we sent another vehicle to bring them, they were also taken in for hours,” Rasheed said.
In another incident, Rasheed said, four vehicles from Chadoora, Pulwama, Bandipora and Handwara were detained and taken forcibly inside the camp at around 5pm.
“All the passengers were humiliated and taken hostage inside the camp. Their mobile phones were snatched and at around 11:30pm they were released only when the matter was brought in the notice of IG police, who in a swift action helped us to release those vehicles illegally detained by Seelu camp. It is strange that every time the matter was brought in the notice of SP Sopore, his approach was casual and answers misleading,” Rasheed said.
“I will never blame anyone without proof, this thing is happening from last few months but concerned authorities are not doing anything to stop this harassment to the people by army. The army is not our enemy but if they will not stop harassing passenger vehicles, we will make them accountable by the power of people,” Rasheed added.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Sopore, Javid Iqbal confirmed to Kashmir Reader that he received calls from legislator Rasheed about detained vehicles.
“I contacted the army and told them to release the vehicles and within some time, vehicles were released, this is all that happened that day,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal added that army or police take passenger vehicles only when required for official use.
“We pay the fare and even petrol, recently we took some passenger vehicles for election duty but we paid them fully, but as I have discussed with army recently about this issue, so now no vehicle will be snatched,” Iqbal assured.