Economic blockade enforced by Hindu groups

6 July 2008
The Daily Times
Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: Traders and political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have called for the immediate opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route for trucks following an economic blockade enforced by Hindu groups on the Kashmir Valley. The Indian Oil Tankers Association has already announced stopping supplying petroleum products to the valley after the recent political outburst. For the last five days, activists from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu groups have blocked traffic on the Pathankot-Jammu and Jammu-Srinagar national highways, arteries for the Kashmir, Poonch, Rajouri and Doda region. Reports said that over 2,500 trucks carrying essentials such as medicine, rice, wheat, gas and livestock are held up near the Lakhanpur checkpost at the Punjab-Jammu and Kashmir border. An equal number of trucks carrying fruits for the Azadpur fruit market in Delhi are stranded on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Udhampur. Excise Commissioner Masood Ali Raja said Hindu activists had attacked the Lakhanpur post and burned an excise and sales tax’s office. “It will [take] a bit of time to restore offices and staff to resume duties,” he said. Appeal: Jammu and Kashmir Fruit Growers Association President Ghulam Rasool Bhat has warned that if the fruit-laden trucks were not allowed to proceed to Delhi, he will direct all trucks to gather in Salamabad, the last checkpoint along the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road. He has appealed to the Pakistan government to come to the rescue of the Kashmiris by allowing Kashmiri trucks to cross the Line of Control (LoC) and sell their produce in Rawalpindi. Essential supplies: Leaders in Kashmir have also asked Pakistan to send essential supplies to the valley and other areas in Jammu reeling under the economic blockade of Hindu groups. Foreign ministers of the two countries agreed last month to allow a meeting of the Technical Working Group on cross-LoC confidence building measures in Islamabad on July 10. They said the meeting would concretise the decisions made in May regarding bus services, trade and truck services across the LoC. India in the past has officially accused Pakistan of putting spokes on the cross-LoC trade. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has said Pakistan’s indecision is delaying the cross-LoC trade. For the last two years, Indian and Pakistani leaders have been reiterating their resolve to increase the frequency of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot buses, an early launch of bus service between Kargil and Skardu, revival of the old link between Jammu and Sialkot and launch of a truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Sources said the Indian technical delegation visiting Islamabad next week is expected to offer liberalisation of the entry permit system by bringing in features such as triple-entry permits valid for a year and the completion of the verification process within six weeks. India has also been proposing that entry permits can be made at each District Passport Collection Centre for the convenience of travellers. Meanwhile, Kashmir Divisi-onal Commissioner Mehboob Iqbal convened an emergency meeting late on Friday to take stock of the petrol, diesel and cooking gas availability. It is said that supplies will last for the next two weeks. Officials have asked the army to ensure supplies in case the blockade continues.