‘Villagers ask us to show police permission to sell goods’
‘We are being detained and questioned by police regularly’
‘Recently attackers used knives and axes to damage our goods’
Srinagar: The locals and the police at Vijaypur, Samba in Jammu are harassing Kashmiri traders who earn a living selling blankets or shawls there, in the name of rules and regulations, allege small time traders working there.
When the traders carrying heavy blankets on their backs move from one village to another, the locals harass them about their identity and their registration in the local police station.
One of the traders told Free Press Kashmir, “by our appearance, they recognise in the first go that we are Kashmiris. Still, they ask us who we are, where we are from, whether the police station has verified our identities and all. It happens especially to those who have grown a beard.” The trader says he had spent around 4 hours in Vijaypur, Sambha police station before he was allowed to go.
Seconding the traders, a commuter told Free Press Kashmir saying that he witnessed the way traders were harassed by the locals and the police for being Kashmiris. “I am a student. Due to the road blockage, I along with my friends got stuck here. We have been witnessing the way Kashmiri traders are harassed by the locals and the police here,” he says, requesting anonymity.
The locals send the traders to their Sarpanchs who do not allow them to work in their area unless they get written permission from the police station.
“On Friday, around 8 men were detained. After prayers they were picked up from the Vijaypur Chowk by the police. From 3 to 11 pm, they were detained without any reason.”
“The Munshi had hurled abuses in the name of Kashmiris and resistance leaders there. They were given their Identity cards back the next day.”
Recently, two men in Godamor, Jammu, had damaged their goods using Knives and axes.
“They came out of nowhere and attacked our goods (Ghatri) with knives and axes telling us we are Kashmiris and cannot sell our goods here,” says a trader adding, “another fellow trader was kept in the police station from 11 am to 4 pm.”
At first, the SHO Vijaypur, Samba denied having any such information. However, later he told Free Press Kashmir that what Kashmiri traders are calling harassment is mere verification.
“We have to maintain the census records so we need to verify the people residing here for 3 or 4 months. During Modi Visit, we had to sanitize the area. What is wrong in that? The verification does take hours to complete. Nobody bothers them,” says the SHO.
“If anyone comes to a new place to stay, he should come to the police station and inform us and also submit his phone number and other details. Tomorrow, we can defend them if we have their details,” he adds.
“Once they went to a village and people looked at them with suspicious due to the theft cases. So, they had to ask them about their identities. That is not harassment,” he says.
Responding to the allegation that many Kashmiris were picked up after Nimaz, the SHO said, “I believe in one religion: Humanity. As far as the religion is concerned, there is no discrimination. The ones speaking on those terms should be slapped on their faces. They infer that all Hindus are bad, Kafir and should be killed,” he says adding, “there is a CCTV camera installed on the spot. You can check who bothered whom.”
“I have rented my place to three Kashmiri Engineering Students. I only charge them Rs 4,000 per month. Your people are studying here and working here. They do business here. Nobody is harassing them,” he says adding he belongs to Doda and he will not let anything wrong happen to Kashmiris in Jammu.
Speaking to Free Press Kashmir, an official from Police Control Room, Srinagar said that the traders are required to get themselves verified at the local police station near their place of residence.
However, he says, “if they are staying for a long time, they ought to get registered. But, no one asks them whether they are verified or not while they are selling goods on streets/alleys here.”
The traders however are living in fear.
“What was my fault? In Kashmir, the non-Kashmiri traders roam around freely. Why do we need to verify our identities when Jammu and Kashmir is one state and we are its residents,” a trader requesting anonymity says, adding that in the process his business suffers.
“Around six traders have given up. They left and went back to Kashmir. This is what they probably want,” says the trader.
Asked if the traders had tried to file a written complaint at the station, they say, “It’s scary. Once we were stopped by the Army. They kept us at one place for hours and later told us we cannot go, without any reason or explanation. The police are involved, where do we go to file a complaint,” he says.