Skip to main content

Kashmir traders ask: Why does govt think it can do anything and get away with it?

By Anand K Sahay*
Says a 30-year old, a minor government functionary in Baramulla, in an uncomplicated, way, “Aap apne Pakistan ka gussa Kashmir par nikal rahe hain!” (You are taking it out on us in Kashmir because you are angry with Pakistan!)
He is angry, “Look at what Modi has done. Militancy had tapered off, but you scrapped Article 370 on the pretext of stopping terrorism. Life was running quite smoothly until the Burhan Wani killing. And then, after an interruption, it was back to normal again."
“New Delhi has cooked up the fear of terrorism,” says the young man. After this, who knows what will happen? Militants are gathering already. The army says hundreds have crossed over from Pakistan. Young men here can’t be unaffected. They are hurt and angry. The government has cut our mobile phones. So, now the militants can go about organising, and no one can know.” (This was the day before the embargo on post-paid connections ended after 70 days.)
One morning I rise early, and rush to get to the famous apple trade mart- the apple “mandi” at Sopore in northern Kashmir, the biggest in India after New Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, by about eight in order to get there ahead of the closing time imposed by “people’s resistance”. These days shops in Kashmir, other than the local vegetable seller or butcher, don’t stay open beyond 9-9.30 in the morning, if they open at all.
The place is practically empty. It is supposed to be so packed with trucks on a normal day around this time of year that visitors must park their cars more than two kilometres away, and walk. But we drive right in. There are no more than a dozen trucks and a few tempos and tractors scattered about, and this is peak season. On a normal working day, around 1,400 trucks laden with the lush apple crop start revving out of Sopore for destinations as far away as Bangladesh.
But this year the fruit economy is a shambles, badly denting incomes of practically every single Kashmiri home since nearly everyone owns a few apple trees, or is connected with the fruit trade in some way- as financier, transporter, commission agent, loader, push-cart apple-seller, labourer, the dhaba people who feed the thousands who come to the mandi every day.
The fruit economy is a shambles, badly denting incomes of practically every single Kashmiri home
I accost a couple of commission agents, who are just hanging around, not having much to do. Both have very sad faces. They explain the trading mechanism -- the orchard -- gate to loading-the-trucks process to me, and fall silent. One of them begins again, and asks, “What was wrong with the way the Congress used to do things in Delhi? Why have these people ended 370 and ended everything that was normal?”
I shrug this off and ask, “So, when will the people’s protest end, why not lift the self-imposed embargo and get on with it?” Hearing this, the other man comes to life. “No! We must carry on with our strike. Why does the government think it can do anything it likes and get away with it?”
Shopian in the south produces Kashmir’s best apples and has the second most important apple mandi after Sopore. It too is shut, I find two days later. Completely shut. Since all commercial establishments are closed in Kashmir these days, a few trucks show up in the villages to load the fruit. In a normal year, about 800-1000 trucks leave Shopian every day, laden with the apple. Business worth crores of rupees is transacted. In the current season, local traders say, only around 20 trucks go out every day.
According to a high-ranking district official in northern Kashmir, apple could account for about 25 to 30 per cent of Kashmir’s GDP. The season is practically over but apple-growers have no interest in selling to NAFED, the government market intervention agency. The open market is a well-oiled system and offers a much better price than the government’s fixed rate.
The growers won’t mind selling to NAFED the apples that fall off trees and get somewhat damaged but would still be first rate for juice and jams. But NAFED has shown no interest.
Since all phones were dead until a few days ago, the apple grower and trader could not be in touch with their destination markets in far away places and gain access to market intelligence, which usually helped them regulate daily supplies. This too has led to a drop in earnings.
Apparently in order to keep markets shut, suspected militants have killed an apple trader in Sopore, and last week hit at a transporter from Punjab and a trader from Rajasthan in Shopian and Pulwama respectively. In September, a shopkeeper was killed in Srinagar. Plain murder is naturally culpable, but the militants’ game also seems foolish since an angry Kashmir appears to seek to press on with the peaceful strike anyway- at least for now. There appears to be no Pakistan hand in this.
(To be concluded)
---
*Senior Delhi-based journalist, who was recently in Srinagar, Baramulla and Shopian. This is the second article in a series on ground realities in Kashmir following the August 5 crackdown. A version of this article has appeared in the “Asian Age”

Comments

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.