Cops Keep Commercial Activities Open in Lal Chowk

Cops stand guard on Residency road in Lalchowk Srinagar on Thursday | KO Photo by Abid Bhat

Srinagar: A day after Srinagar traders were warned of consequences for observing shutdown on the second anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, a battery of cops Thursday enforced ‘normalcy’ in Lal Chowk, the capital’s commercial nerve centre.

Several J&K Police teams, one of which was led by SP (East) Srinagar City, Ms. Tanushree were seen walking around the trade heartland and talking to shopkeepers.

In a series of videos posted on social media, men in civvies accompanied by cops could be seen directing shopkeepers to open their business establishments.

“I was called by a police official who sternly directed me to open my shop or face action,” alleged a trader in Lal Chowk wishing anonymity.

“When I reached my shop, two cops were trying to open the shutters”, he said.

In a video viral on social media, one of the police officials can be even heard asking for a hexa-blade to cut open the lock of one of the establishments. “Had anybody else done that,we would have complained to police. But in this situation we feel helpless”, said another store owner.

While attempts to seek SP East’s comments on the situation didn’t yield any response, the lady IPS officer on Wednesday had told Kashmir Observer: “We have convened meetings with traders all over Srinagar and have clearly mentioned that the government will not support any hartal. We want everything to be normal. As business establishments operate today, they’re supposed to do the same tomorrow and on the upcoming days.”

Kashmir Observer tried to reach SSP Srinagar, Sandeep Choudary, but there was no response from his side despite repeated attempts.

When contacted Divisional Commissioner PK Pole told Kashmir Observer: “It [police opening shops] has never happened before, so I’ll look into it.”

Sheikh Ashiq, President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that several members from his association called him alleging that the police was coercing them to open their shops. “When they refused, the police officials, many of whom were dressed in civvies, threatened them with strict actions and broke locks of many shop,” the KCCI President alleged.

Meanwhile, many traders from Lal Chowk said they are caught a catch 22 situation.

“If we open our shops, we will be called anti-Kashmir and if we close our shops, the police will come hounding us,” said a trader. “In either way, we shopkeepers become scapegoats.”

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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