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Jammu & Kashmir

Shut by day, Srinagar’s wholesale vegetable market buzzes all night

September 03, 2019 05:18 AM


Shut by day, Srinagar’s wholesale vegetable market buzzes all night


In the dead of night, when the world sleeps, the Valley’s largest wholesale market for vegetables wakes up to the hurly-burly of the business hours it is denied at daytime.

Between 10pm and 4am, the Batamaloo subzi mandi near the regional transport office wears the look of a busy marketplace where the only thing that matters to anyone is buying or selling. It is a pretence of normalcy that has been played out in this Srinagar locality every night for around two weeks, endorsed by terrorist groups and undisturbed by security forces.

“In the Valley, everything is now about optics,” said a wholesaler on condition of anonymity. “Separatists want to convey the impression that uncertainty is here to stay, which is why they won’t allow us to do business by day except for a couple of hours. Security forces want shops to open or close depending on what suits them on a particular day. For now, the night belongs to us.”

Sources said the 10pm-4am window for the wholesale market to operate was fixed by separatist groups and conveyed to the mandi association. Posters of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba have since appeared in various localities, specifying that shops selling essential commodities can remain open from 7am till 10am and 6pm till 8pm.

‘Terrorists ensure we follow their diktat’

Hamidullah Bhat, who owns a shop in Ram Bagh said, “Nobody dares breach these timings. Terrorists roam about on motorbikes to ensure we follow their diktat.”

The killing of 65-year-old wholesale trader Ghulam Mohammad at Parimpora, on the outskirts of Srinagar last Thursday, has ensured that many shops and other business establishments across the Valley stay shut even during the ‘designated’ business hours.

The slain trader was known to defy shutdown diktats despite receiving threats from terrorist groups on several occasions since 2016.

On Friday evening, three armed terrorists barged into a departmental store at Sanat Nagar and warned the owner and his staff that they should be “ready for the consequences” if the business establishment stayed open longer than two hours each at daytime and evening. Eyewitnesses said the owner’s son, who panicked and ran out through the rear of the store, barely escaped being shot.

The owner of another departmental store at Jawahar Nagar said he too had been threatened. Trader Abdul Ahad of Saria Bala in uptown Srinagar said he preferred not to risk opening his shop even for a couple of hours in the morning after what happened to Ghulam Mohammad. “Who knows when these armed groups will change their strategy,” he said.

Tired of walking the tightrope, several fuel pumps have threatened to stop supplying petrol and diesel to private vehicles.

The official line is that the situation is slowly but surely getting back to normal despite attempts to disturb law and order. Government spokesman Rohit Kansal said on Monday that was no shortage of lifesaving drugs and essential commodities anywhere in J&K. “All large and district-level hospitals are functioning normally. Surgeries are taking place and OPD patients are being treated properly.”

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