SRINAGAR: It was an unusual day on Thursday which marked the second anniversary of the abrogation of J&K’s special status in the Union of India. The day began in the conventional way, with markets shut as a mark of protest, but later officials of the administration and police arrived to force the shops open.
Most of shop owners and shopkeepers stayed home in the morning. As the day progressed, officials of police and administration were seen breaking locks on the shutters of many shops to force them open.
The shutdown was in place despite the administration and police having given clear instructions to the business community to not observe any shutdown on the day.
Farhan Kitab, President of Kashmir Retailers Association, told Kashmir Reader that two meetings had been held with the administration and police to ensure that businesses operated normally on the day. In one of these meetings, a senior official of the administration categorically told retailers to not keep their shops shut.
“He told us that since most of the shops in the city centre are on Nazool land, the tenants’ rights have expired. Notices in this regard have been already sent to shopkeepers on July 10. Therefore, no illegal activity is supposed to take place on the land, the officer said,” Kitab told Kashmir Reader.
Four shops were sealed a day before, on Wednesday, by the administration and the SMC, on the grounds of not having paid the municipality fee, Kitab said.
Kashmir Reader asked SMC Commissioner Amir Athar about the reasons as to why the shops were sealed. He asked this reporter to check with the joint commissioner for further details. Athar did not answer when asked whether he was unaware about the SMC’s sealing action.
“I know what you are trying to do. Please send the details. We will look into the matter and share the details,” he said.
Kitab said that another meeting was held by the head of the Srinagar police, asking businessmen to continue business as usual. The police officer said, according to Kitab, that Kashmir is in the “business revival mode”, therefore no efforts should be made which could reverse this revival.
“He told us that a tweet about a shutdown by Geelani was later refuted by him (Geelani). Therefore, there should be no shutdown. Rather, normal business should function,” Kitab said.
“But if this was the case, then why were the shops sealed a day before? Would the closure further the business?” Kitab asked.
SSP Srinagar Sandeep Chowdry was not available for his comments.
Last year, Kashmir had observed a general shutdown on August 5.