Massive economic distress in J&K, say rights groups

Civil society groups, which organised a march from Jammu to Srinagar, against the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, on Thursday said there was an “absence of civil liberties, massive economic distress and political crisis” in the erstwhile State.

Among those present were I.D. Khajuria of the J&K Forum for Peace and Territorial Integrity, Bilal Khan of Haq Insaf Party, Rajendran Narayanan, Sandeep Pandey of Socialist Party and Arun Srivastava of Loktantrik Janata Dal. They also released a report on the findings.

The “Restoration of Democracy” march was taken out from November 26 to December 1.

Mr. Rajendran said some locals was satisfied with the Centre’s decision of abrogating the special status, but there was a sense of extreme betrayal, breach of trust and an atmosphere of fear among most of them.

“There was a noticeable difference in the confession of economic fallout as we progressed northwards from Jammu to Kashmir...the four-month-long clampdown has broken the back of the economy, which is further compounded by bad weather,” he said. Jammu's economy had also suffered badly.

The apple industry was the worst hit, with more than 3.5 lakh migrant labourers having been forced to return. The shutting down of Internet services had impacted the tourism industry and other net-based businesses.

Stating that the region was cut off from the world due to communication blackout, Mr. Khajuria said most of the 300-odd hotels in Jammu were lying vacant and 1,240 taxis had no tourists to ferry. The businessmen from Jammu, who had invested in the dry-fruit trade in Srinagar, were suffering huge losses.

Alleging that hundreds of people, including youngsters, had been arrested, Mr. Khajuria called for an end to the politics of confrontation.

Mr. Khan said while political parties in the rest of the country were deliberating on the situation, those in Jammu and Kashmir were not being allowed to undertake any political activity. Several local political leaders had been detained. “It is not good for democracy,” he said, adding that any decision should have been taken after consulting locals.

The march, taken out partly on foot and partly by motorised transportation, was started by over 50 people from the Jammu Press Club amid heavy security presence. Among the prominent participants were former MP Sheikh Abdur Rehman, two time-MLA from Madya Pradesh, Dr. Sunilam, and Mr. Pandey.

Mr. Pandey said the police did not allow them to proceed on foot, but they were permitted to leave in five vehicles. They went to Udhampur and then to Ramban, after which the security personnel ensured that they did not go further.

At a press conference in Ramban, journalists were threatened and their equipment snatched. They were prevented from covering the event. The area residents and hotels were allegedly told not to entertain those holding the march.

However, six members managed to leave for Srinagar, where they met CPI leader Ghulam Mohammad Mizrab in Shopian, activists of J&K Coalition of Civil Society, Haq Insaf Party and a large number of locals and security personnel deployed along the way.

Mr. Srivastava said the civil society groups would keep visiting Jammu and Kashmir in the coming days and interact with locals.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 8:37:24 AM |

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