Shutdown or 'Hartal' has been the Kashmiris' staple form of demonstration---protest against the killing of civilians or militants, alleged custodial disappearance, alleged rape or molestation of women by security forces or Police---since the outbreak of armed insurgency in 1989. Also on Indian Independence Day (August 15), Indian Republic Day (January 26) and Indian Army's first arrival in Kashmir (October 27), there has been a call of shutdown every year in the last 26 years. Militants or separatist politicians have never tolerated criticism of Hartal, pleading that it was "the only available tool of protest and demonstration". Daily Al-Safa News editor Mohammad Shaban Vakil's assassination in 1991 in the midst of his series of critiques on Hartal. Five senior officers, including Naeem Akhtar (now PDP's MLC and Minister of Education in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's PDP-BJP Government in J&K, sponsored a 72-day-long shutdown of government services leading to their dismissal which was, however, withdrawn and all the five officers were reinstated by Governor's administration. Now, for the first time, Chairman of Hurriyat Conference's 'moderate faction' Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has sought suggestions from traders, academicians, politicians and intellectuals with regard to Hartal's "alternative".
SRINAGAR, Jun 23: Thanks to the Valley’s militant outfits and separatist organizations, who have enforced 1,562 days of shutdown in the last 20 years of the secessionist movement, Jammu & Kashmir state has suffered loss of over Rs 150,000 Crore. Government’s contribution is also substantial as the state has additionally suffered loss of Rs 15,000 Crore on account of curfew on 150 days during same period of the political turmoil.
J&K state’s economy is estimated to have suffered loss of around Rs 200,000 Crore during 20 years of the separatist movement. This includes infrastructure destroyed by militants and security forces besides illegal felling of conifer trees and timber smuggling. Shutdown enforced by Hurriyat Conference, its constituents and militant outfits for 1,562 days till date, besides nearly 150 days of declared and undeclared curfew by the government, though mostly restricted to downtown Srinagar, have been the largest contributing factors. Loss suffered by the state’s economy on account of shutdown and curfew accounts for about 80% of the cumulative damage.
While the separatist groups and alliances have been enforcing shutdown mainly to protest human rights abuse by the armed forces, authorities have been resorting to imposition of curfew in extreme law and order situations from day one of the armed insurgency. Capital city of Srinagar, as also the key business townships of Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara, Bandipore, Budgam, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag have been the worst hit.
There were nearly 700 days of Hartal in Kashmir valley in the first four years of militancy. According to the official figures tabulated by Jammu & Kashmir Police, year 1990 witnessed 198 days of shutdown. It was followed by 207 days of shutdown in 1991---highest so far. Similarly, the Valley shut for 148 days in 1992 and 139 days in 1993. With the gradual improvement in situation, days of shutdown reduced to 24 in 1999 but again went up to 122 in 2001. Minimum days of shutdown in a calendar year were witnessed in 2007 when the business in Kashmir remained closed for 13 days.
Mainly due to the Amarnath shrine land allotment strife, Kashmir was shut for 33 days in 2008. It jumped to 35 in the first year of Omar Abdullah government in 2009 when Hurriyat and other separatist outfits succeeded in freezing the Valley for different intervals on account of alleged rape-cum-murder of two women in Shopian (which was not proved in CBI investigation) and several related incidents. Second year of the NC-Congress coalition government is threatening to prove worse as the Valley has already observed 22 days of shutdown in just 6 months and 23 days.
All individual outfits and both factions of Hurriyat Conference have been calling for a strike whenever an incident of human rights abuse happens or is perceived to have happened at the hands of Police or security forces. On several occasions, these constituents and alliances have enforced shutdown “in honour” of the militants killed by security forces in gunbattles. Over a dozen historical days, like Republic Day (January 26), Martyrs Day (July 13), Independence Day (August 15), Indian Army’s First Arrival (October 26) besides the assassination anniversary of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq (May 21) and death anniversaries of top ranking militants have been marked as red in Kashmir’s calendar. Hardliner separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has attained the highest profile among all political and militant leaders in enforcing a bandh in the Valley.
Sponsors of the shutdown have been justifying their calls for strike with the argument that it was the “only form of demonstration” with the Kashmiris. Though a large number of strike calls have failed to generate desired impact, most of such appeals have evoked substantial response. Guns, grenades and stones have also been used on certain occasion to enforce a shutdown, particularly around Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal elections.
(To be continued tomorrow).
Courtesy shutdowns, J&K is on verge of economic collapse
General trade alone suffers loss of Rs 40 cr on each day of Hartal in Kashmir
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 24: If President of Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), Sadiq Baqal, is to be believed, there are around 300,000 shops and various sales units in Kashmir valley. Quoting a survey, he said that 2,35,000 shops had been counted in the Valley two years ago. “In a comprehensive exercise, we have calculated that the Valley’s economy is suffering loss of Rs 100 Crore on each day of shutdown. General trade alone has been suffering loss of Rs 35 Cr to Rs 40 Cr on each day of shutdown”, Mr Baqal told Early Times [www.earlytimes.in].
Leading businessman and President Federation of Chambers & Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qallandar, seconded Mr Baqal and said that each day of a total strike would mean dent of Rs 100 Cr to the state economy. He added that the loss suffered by Kashmir was around 90% and even Jammu division, which rarely observes a shutdown, was being subjected to 10% of the damage on such a day.
With due regards to the spiraling macro economic indicators compiled by Directorate General of Planning and Statistics and presented alongwith his Budget in the Legislative Assembly by Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, Mr Qallandar insisted that Jammu & Kashmir state’s economy was on the verge of economic collapse. Taking exception to “prejudiced claims” from certain analysts in New Delhi and overseas that J&K was flourishing with a “visible as well as invisible economy”, Qallandar said: “Don’t go by the deceptive indicators of the flowing in vehicles and coming up houses. One must bear it in mind that J&K is currently suffering the trade deficit of Rs 27,000 Cr a year. Total volume of our exports is Rs 7,000 Cr today while as goods worth Rs 34,000 Cr are imported in a year”.
“Everybody in J&K is debt trapped. Residents have lifted loans worth Rs 22,000 Cr from different banks and their liquidity is dismal”, Qallandar added. According to him, in terms of overall economic development, J&K stood among the highest growing eight states in 1988 while as, mainly due to a hostile business atmosphere, it had over the years plummeted to the bottom. He claimed that in 2009, J&K was among the three states of the worst economic development. Yet another negative indicator was a survey by Transparency International which put J&K as India’s second worst state in terms of corruption.
With the state government’s latest statistics putting the number of unemployed youth (between age group of 18 to 37 years) at 600,000, Qallandar insisted that total number of the people with no assured or permanent source of income in J&K was currently 10 Lakh (one million). “Our unemployed ratio has already crossed the red mark of 10 percent. It was just 2 percent in 1988. With 1000,000 unemployed people, we, on the other hand, engage 500,000 skilled and unskilled labours from Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab and few other North Indian states every year. State does not have institutions to create its own workforce of the skilled labours”, he said.
Another leading entrepreneur, who wished anonymity, told Early Times that frequent shutdowns were the worst enemy of the Valley’s new generation. “If our separatist political leaders continued to fail to introduce some benign form of demonstration of protest in the next couple of years, they will be dismissed by history as the agents of destruction”, he cautioned. He revealed that thousands of youth from the families traditionally associated with Kashmir’s art and handicrafts, living on either side of erstwhile Nallah Mar Road, had been lured into a romanticism of stone pelting and enforcement of shutdown. “They neither work themselves not let others work”, he said while fearing extinction of Kashmir’s unique art and intellectual talent that made the Valley proud for centuries in the past.
(To be continued)
2010: 22 (till 23rd June)
Total days of shutdown from 01-01-1990 t0 23-06-2010 = 1,562
[Source: Jammu & Kashmir Police]
25th June: Shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir
26th June: Hold mass prayers and Qanoot-e-Nazila at mosques
27th June: Write “Go India Go Back” slogans on walls and roads
28th June: Male students to wear black badges on their arms
29th June: Female students to wear black badges on their arms
30th June: Protest demonstrations at mosques between evening prayers
1st July: Women’s march to Pathar Masjid in Srinagar downtown
2nd July: Shutdown
3rd July: Shutdown
9th July: Shutdown
10th July: Shutdown
13th July: Shutdown plus march to two martyrs’ graveyards in Srinagar
3rd July onwards: Indefinite shutdown if Police/forces killed anybody in Kashmir.