Traders’ Bodies in Valley Refuse to Meet Visiting Home Minister

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SRINAGAR: In a setback to the government’s efforts to reach out to the people of Kashmir, prominent trade and commerce bodies here today refused to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on a two-day visit to review the situation in the violence-hit Valley.

‘Kashmir is a political dispute; HM should meet Hurriyat, not traders’, prominent trade union leader said

Key member of the Kashmir Economic Alliance Yaseen Khan said that Kashmir is a political issue and needs political solution. “The Home Minister needs to meet the Hurriyat leadership and not the traders. Why should we meet a political leader and for what. He has to meet the political representatives of this land-the Hurriyat,” Khan told Kashmir Observer.

Mr Singh had invited Khan and other prominent trade representatives for a meeting to discuss the situation in Kashmir, which is under curfew for the last 15 days. 

53 people have died and several thousand have been injured in over two weeks of clashes between demonstrators and security forces amid protests over the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani earlier this month.

Singh landed in Srinagar Saturday at around 11:15 am and flew to Nehru Guest House. He is staying here overnight for a series of meetings with officials and civil society.

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“Almost all trade bodies have boycotted the meetings,” a senior trade leader said. “There is no fun in meeting the Home Minister when similar meetings in past have failed.”

“How can you talk when the killings are going on,” another trade leader said. “They are maiming a generation.”

Those who have decided against meeting the Home Minister include Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation Chamber of Industry Kashmir and Kashmir Traders Federation, Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Houseboat Owners Association (HBOA), Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF), Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHARA), Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance (JKTA), Jammu and Kashmir HAJJ and Ummrah Association (JAKAHUC).

At least two “civil society” groups have also declined to have a meeting.

“Our plea was simple, you remember Kashmir when there is tension, there you have committee and by the time the report comes we are normal, so you forget everything,” Khan said. “We told them that what has happened to earlier such meetings.”

This is for the first time that such a large number of trade bodies have boycotted the Home Minister, a situation that did not arise even during 2010 unrest.

Refusing to meet the visiting Union Minister, traders body Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) staged a protest instead against the civilian killings said that it will be a futile exercise to meet the Home Minister as India is reluctant to address the core issue.

KEA acting chairman Farooq Ahmad Dar said that people of Kashmir are not demanding packages and rehabilitation.

“There is not even a single reasonable reason to meet Rajnath Singh. The murderers of civilian killed during 2008 and 2010 unrest are still roaming freely. Some of the police officials who killed innocent and unarmed civilians were given good posting and promotions. It means one who kills an innocent Kashmiri is a hero in the eye of India,” he said.

He said that “authorities put their best efforts to save killers of teenager Wamiq Farooq from any legal action when the father of Wamiq ran from pillar to post to get justice.”

Speaking in a critique manner, he said: “Except government of India, everyone in the world knows what is happening in Kashmir. How many massacres have occurred here, innocent killed, people tortured, women raped, children orphaned and youth subjected to forced disappearance by the forces?”

“It is after fifteen days that GoI thought to visit Kashmir. If he (Rajnath Singh) is really here with the message of justice, let him direct police to book all those forces personnel who killed innocent and unarmed civilians from 1990 to till date. Let him announce that people of J&K will be given right to self determination right,” he said.

“We didn’t meet him. We have determined to go ahead with the shutdown and peaceful protests till Kashmir issue is resolved. In case of economic blockade by the Jammu, we will prefer and love to opt traditional Jhelum route and will appeal international community to help us in its re-opening,” he said.

“During 2008 unrest, traders incurred approximately Rs 40 thousand crore loss while in 2010 the loss was around 70 thousand crore. However, we want to make it clear that pecuniary loss is nothing as compared to human lives,” he said while replying to a query, adding, “We will not defy shutdown but will continue with peaceful protests now till resolution of Kashmir. We are least bothered about economic losses as we have lost precious human lives in fresh firing by forces during past fifteen days and the counting of human rights abuses is going on.”

“Some so called traders and civil society members have met Rajnath Singh. We want to inform people that these so called traders and civil society members are not among us. These are all fake organizations and societies. These all groups are sponsored to mislead the international community,” he added.

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