Hundreds of roadside vendors today defied hardline Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s announcement to observe ‘civil curfew’ as they displayed their merchandise in the popular flea market in the city.
Mr. Geelani had announced a three-day ‘civil curfew’ to be observed, beginning with arrival of US President Barack Obama to India yesterday, but the roadside vendors decided to defy the diktat.
“We have seen enough of strikes and curfews for the past four months and now we want to feed our families. We cannot go on forever like this,” a vendor, who identified himself only as Khalid, told PTI.
Mr. Khalid said he also wanted resolution of Kashmir issue but not by forcing his family to starvation. “There has to be a strategy... any movement that forces the poor into further poverty cannot sustain for too long,” the graduate from S P College said.
The sentiments were echoed by many of Khalid’s fellow traders at the Sunday market, but would not speak on record for the fear of reprisal from separatist elements.
“We do not want to indulge into politics. We are trying to fulfil our basic needs... the separatist have not cared and the Government at best has been absent,” Nazir Ahmad (name changed) said.
Asked about the impact of breaking the strike when Obama is in India, both Khalid and Nazir were of the opinion that the “Kashmiri nation” should stop looking at foreign powers for resolution of the issue.
“The US, China, UK and UN have been there for so many decades but what have they done so far?” they asked.
The defiance by vendors comes a week after an unknown group, Jammu and Kashmir Ittehadi Islami, circulated posters in the city asking the Hurriyat Conference to review its strike calendar as it was only harming economy of the valley.
Although an estimated 5000 roadside vendors set up their shop from TRC Crossing to Batamaloo every Sunday to earn a livelihood, only 20 per cent of them have decided to defy the separatist diktat.
Meanwhile, normal life remained disrupted in the Valley as most of the shops, private offices and commercial establishments remained closed on account of strike.
A police spokesman said the situation across the Valley so far was peaceful. “There is no curfew or restrictions in place anywhere in the Kashmir Valley,” he said.
Kashmir Valley has been in the grip of protests, strikes and curfew since June when a 17-year-old boy was killed by a tear smoke shell allegedly fired by police at Rajouri Kadal area of the city.