Protest against shutdowns, Geelani tones down strike schedule

It was a protest with a difference as people from different parts of Kashmir Valley converged at Lal Chowk in the heart of the city to register their opposition to continuing strike calls given by the separatists.

Last Updated: Nov 07, 2010, 21:11 PM IST

Srinagar: It was a protest with a
difference as people from different parts of Kashmir Valley
today converged at Lal Chowk in the heart of the city to
register their opposition to continuing strike calls given by
the separatists.

The protesters belonging to Jammu and Kashmir NGO
Forum assembled at the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) and
moved in a convoy towards clock tower located at Lal Chowk
where they hoisted a white flag -- a symbol of peace.

The rally was staged in protest against the continuous
strikes called by separatist groups over the past few months
which had brought normal life including education activities
to a standstill in the Valley.

The participants, who held placards denouncing the
frequent strikes, were attacked by a few stone-pelting
miscreants who were chased away by police using batons and
tear gas shells at some places.

This is the second protest against the strikes called
by hardline Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani
since the ongoing unrest began in the Valley in June.

On September one, a political activist organised a
students` protest rally at Residence Road against continuing
disruption of education system.

Hours after the protest, hardline separatist leader
Syed Ali Shah Geelani issued a fresh calender for next 12 days
which surprisingly had only three days of strikes while the
remaining nine days have been exempted from the purview of the
stir.

Earlier, hundreds of roadside vendors defied Geelani`s
call for a `civil curfew` today as they displayed their
merchandise in the popular flea market of the city.

Geelani had announced a three-day `civil curfew`
beginning with arrival of US President Barack Obama to India
yesterday, but the vendors decided to defy it.

"We have seen enough of strikes and curfews for the
past four months and now we want to feed our families. We
cannot go on forever like this," a vendor, who identified
himself only as Khalid, said.

The sentiments were echoed by many of Khalid`s fellow
traders at the Sunday market, but they did not speak on record
for the fear of reprisal from separatist elements.

Pressure had been mounting on Geelani to review his
strike schedule as a little-known outfit Jammu and Kashmir
Ittehadi Islami had circulated posters in the city giving a
two-day ultimatum to the separatists to call off the unending
cycle of strikes as it was only harming the economy of the
Valley.

According to official estimates, the state economy has
suffered losses to the tune of Rs 27,000 crore during the
recent agitation in the Valley. Most of the losses were
suffered on account of taxes and levies which could not be
collected.

However, industry sources put the losses around Rs
40,000 crore in terms of lost business opportunities over the
past five months. More than 60,000 youth have been rendered
jobless, mostly in the hotel industry, which depends on
tourism -- the worst hit sector due to the strikes and curfews
in the Valley.

The non-Kashmiri labourers also suffered immense
losses as most of two lakh skilled and unskilled workforce
from UP, West Bengal, Punjab, Bihar and Orissa fled the Valley
after the protests intensified at the peack of the working
season.

Kashmir Valley has been in the grip of protests,
strikes and curfew since June when a 17-year-old boy was
killed by a tear smoke shell allegedly fired by police at
Rajouri Kadal area of the city.

PTI