SRINAGAR: Scores of Kashmiri traders whose shops were demolished in Leh held angry protests in Srinagar on Saturday accusing the Hill Development Council and the local administration of violating court orders.
According to the protestors who ran vegetable shops in the Leh market for decades, the administration had bulldozed their outlets in the dead of the night on Sunday ostensibly to make way for road-widening.
The Leh administration did this even when we had obtained a stay from the court against the demolition, the protestors and members of the Vegetable Dealers Association, Leh-Ladakh, said.
The demolition was carried out without informing us. Is this the rule of law? asked Muhammad Akbar, who has been running his vegetable shop in Leh for years.
We demanded alternative arrangements for our shops, but no such measures have been taken. We have been deprived of our livelihoods, the vegetable-sellers said.
Property worth lakhs, including furniture, stocks, account books, and other valuables was destroyed without any prior notice to us, they said.
Only a few feet of land were required to widen the road, but authorities were hell bent on shifting the entire subzi mandi without approval of the chief town planner appointed by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, they said.
Kashmiri vegetable dealers are facing bias and prejudice from local Buddhist activists who have prevailed upon the authorities in Leh to dislodge the sabzi mandi from the Jamia Masjid area, they said.
The activists want to drive us out of the Leh town by attacking our business, they said.
On the other hand, the senior superintendent of police in Leh, Vivek Gupta, maintained that the sabzi mandi was demolished under a court decision.
Their business was affected and they suffered huge losses, but it was not by decision. The police had no role in it, Gupta said.
The district development for Leh refused to comment, but his deputy said that the demolition was an administrative matter.
We dont need to justify things, the officer said.
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