“We celebrated abrogation of Article 370 but we didn’t know Jammu will be its first victim,” Jammu traders aghast with BJP’s ‘anti-people’ policies

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Two years after the BJP government abrogated Article 370 of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the region where it promised the abrogation will bring development is up in arms against what regions’ traders, businessmen term BJP’s ‘anti-Jammu’ policies.

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net 

SRINAGAR — More than two years after Narender Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unilaterally read down the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union-territories, the party is facing the heat in the Hindu majority region of Jammu for its “Anti-Jammu policies.”

Soon after the Home Minister of India announced the abrogation of Article 370 in parliament, the Jammu region of the erstwhile state rejoiced the annexation. More than two years after the abrogation, it seems the Dogra heartland is fuming over the government’s policies and actions in the region.

On September 23, the traders and transporters in Jammu observed a complete shutdown against the proposed opening of 100 Reliance retail stores in the region.

The call was given by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) which was supported by twenty-five trade and industry lobbies besides several political parties.

First shutdown after Article 370
Wearing black badges to protest ‘anti-trader policies’, the business community assembled at various markets and the chamber house raising slogans like ‘Jammu Ekta Zindabad’

Several groups of traders under different banners staged a peaceful protest at their respective markets.

The Jammu transporters also joined the protests and said that the protest was not for traders only but every stakeholder of Jammu.

The traders alleged that businessmen in Jammu are facing the “highest degree of discrimination” due to the “directionless policies” of the Union Territory government like ending age-old biannual Darbar move, new Excise and the Geology and Mining Department policies, proposed move by big business houses like Reliance to open stores and restrictions on banquet halls, among other issues.

Anil Gupta, President Raj Tilak Road Traders Association told TwoCircles.net that the businessmen in the region are under tremendous pressure and have apprehensions that the economy might come under a grinding halt.

“Yes, we indeed celebrated the abrogation of Article 370 but we didn’t know Jammu will be its first victim,” Gupta told TwoCircles.net.

Not only traders, Gupta said, but hotels, restaurants, transporters and other stakeholders are now realising the impact of the abrogation of Article 370.

Amid the ongoing protest over the opening of Reliance retail stores, the company said “the talk of 100 stores being opened by us is completely untrue”. “We have not opened any stores in Jammu. We have a few delivery points in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and these are set up by our delivery partners to support the small traders,” a spokesperson of Reliance NSE 1.68 % Retail told news agency PTI.

However, the people of the region maintain that the shutdown call was given just to signal to BJP that “its anti-people policies” won’t work in Jammu.

It may be noted that the BJP won both the parliamentary seats of the region in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In December 2020 District Development Council (DDC) elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party won the most seats in the Jammu region with 75 seats after securing the largest vote share in the polls.

However, the people maintain that despite supporting the party in every election, the party has failed to win the hearts of the people of the region.

“The next elections will decide and they will come to know what they have achieved,” said Surinder Pal, a shopkeeper from Jammu.

Mineral blocks acquired by non-locals
In 2020, the Government allotted most of the mineral blocks to outsiders both in Jammu and Kashmir divisions, leaving people, who are dependent on the sand mining, fuming.

Earlier, no outsider could have participated in the bidding process for mining contracts before the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019.

The government has allotted 25 minor mineral contracts to outsiders in J&K and most of the allotments have been made in the Jammu region and three are Kashmir.

“Since then the government has left us jobless and we are unable to even buy our essentials,” said a contractor from Jammu, who wished not to be named.

He said they have been left at the mercy of outsiders and work under their kindness.

Wine traders against new policy
Earlier, in March 2021, the wine traders in Jammu were up in arms against the government’s fresh draft policy to allow liquor vends in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Draft Excise Policy 2021-22 has spelt out to allot liquor vends through an e-auction, which the wine traders of Jammu and Kashmir say would eliminate local businesspersons from the trade and would benefit only rich capitalists from outside J&K.

According to a report, there are 30,000 families directly or indirectly associated with the business from Jammu and most of the present licensees are widows, senior citizens, and unemployed youth who have no other source of income.

Darbar Move
In June 2021, the LG administration ended the 149-year-old tradition in Jammu & Kashmir known as the ‘Darbar Move’.

The Darbar Move was a biannual practice in which the government functions for six months each in the two capitals of Srinagar and Jammu.

Around 8000-9000 employees working in Civil Secretariats, with headquarters in Jammu and Srinagar, would move along with files twice every year.

Thousands of employees working in civil secretariats, with headquarters in Jammu and Srinagar, would move along with their families twice every year. While Srinagar served as the summer capital, Jammu was the winter capital.

Over the years, the practice boosted Jammu economically. Several Kashmiris would travel to the winter capital along with their families to escape the harsh winters — thus furthering the business of Jammu traders.

The move to do away with the Darbar Move has also angered residents of Jammu.

‘BJP deceived people’
Sunil Dimple, a Jammu based political leader told TwoCircles.net that

Jammu traders, Bar, Chamber, Mission Statehood and other political parties called Jammu Bandh for the restart of Darbar Move, Restoration of Article 370 and the closure of the Jio, Reliance stores.

He said the shutdown united Jammu Kashmir & opened the eyes of the BJP.

Dimple, who is President of Mission Statehood claimed that the BJP government at the centre and the LG govt did not accept the demands of the people of Jammu.

He said the abrogation of article 370 and special status has caused heavy loss to traders, transporters & the people of J&K.

Chief Spokesperson Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress, Ravinder Sharma told TwoCircles.net that the people of Jammu were told that the region will become an economic hub after the abrogation of article 370 and that the political discrimination will end but “now people are realising that they were deceived by BJP, thus you can see people reacting angrily,” Sharma said.

President JCCI Arun Gupta, however, doesn’t link the protest with the abrogation of article 370. He argues that the protest was against the opening of Reliance stores in Jammu.

“The assault on Jammu traders was even before the abrogation of Article 370 when local regional parties were ruling the erstwhile state,” Gupta said adding that “We are hopeful that both the issue of Reliance stories of continuation of Darbar Move will be restored.”

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Disclaimer: “We celebrated abrogation of Article 370 but we didn’t know Jammu will be its first victim,” Jammu traders aghast with BJP’s ‘anti-people’ policies - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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