For giving land to HMT factory, we are receiving bullets, say Zainkote residents

‘CRPF camp be removed for safety of our children’
Srinagar: For the residents of Zainkote in the city outskirts, the setting up of Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) watch factory three decades ago was a boon for them that changed their fortunes by offering jobs and monetary benefits. But, not anymore.
The production at the watch factory stopped years back and it now offers no jobs. Instead the abandoned factory is now only adding to their misery, they say.
Residents allege that with the presence of paramilitary soldiers inside the sprawling factory premises for past four years it has turned into a “deathtrap” for them.
The killing of Gowhar Nazir Dar by a bullet allegedly fired by the CRPF men stationed in the factory camp has aggravated such a feeling among the residents.
Habibullah Dar, 62, said that HMT set up its watch factory in Zainkote in 1971 when the state was ruled by Ghulam Mohammad Bakhshi, who laid its foundation stone in the same year.
After four years, the factory was inaugurated by then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi on 14 October 1971 with much fanfare, Dar said.
“We gave land for the establishment of this factory, but now we are getting bullets back and our youth are ruthlessly being killed, maimed and injured,” Dar said.
The locals allege that few years before, two other youth, Suhail Yaseen and Fida Nabi were also killed in a firing by troops stationed in the camp.
“One more youth Muzamil was rendered disabled after hit by a bullet fired by troops stationed in the watch factory camp,” they said, adding many other youth were also injured.
Established on 452 kanals of farmland, the factory changed the lives of the people initially.
“We were then young men and the factory created ample opportunities for us to earn our livelihood. About 70 locals were employed by the factory,” Dar said, who was one among those employed.
Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, another resident, said that hundreds of families earned their livelihood after the factory was set up.
After 2005, manufacturing of watches stopped in the factory.
“In March 2011, the factory that brought smiles on our face three decades ago became a center of fear for us,” Sofi said.
Sofi was mentioning about Central Reserve Police Force that “forced its entry into the factory.”
“Zainkote was a peaceful area before 2011. But after the camp was established peace has been snatched away by shelling and firing by the CRPF,” the two elderly men said.
“Our children are no more safer here because of the presence of the camp,” they said.
The residents were pointing to the killing of Gowhar Nazir Dar of Mustafabad colony in Zainkote area. They have now formed an association to demand the removal of the camp from the area.
“Gowhar was killed by the CRPF men of this camp barely 700 meters away from it when he was with his cousin to buy milk form the market,” they said.
After Dar’s killing, the residents are now gearing up for the demand of shifting the camp form the factory.
Under the banner of Human Welfare Association, the elders of Zainkote have decided to pursue for the removal of the camp “so that our children fell safe the way we felt in 70’s.”
“We have appealed the government to fulfill our demand. The land can be utilized for some college, hospital, industry or any useful area that benefits us. Not the camp which kills us,” they said. (KNS)

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