SRINAGAR: Kashmir observed a near-complete shutdown on Thursday against the government’s proposal to build colonies for retired Army men of the state, composite townships for migrant Pandits, shelter for homeless non-state subjects and the new industrial policy.
The shutdown was jointly called by the top three pro-freedom leaders – Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik – after a meeting on Monday where they agreed on an issue-based unity among themselves.
The police did not impose restrictions or deployed forces in any part of summer capital Srinagar, as they usually did when the city observed shutdown. However, they took Yasin Malik under custody yesterday, house arrested Mirwaiz while Geelani continued to be under house arrest for nearly 50 days.
Parts of downtown Srinagar, especially the old city, observed complete shutdown. Most of the shops and offices remained shut and public transport did not ply. However, auto rickshaws and thin private transport could be seen on roads.
Shutdown was observed in uptown Srinagar too, but many mini-buses, auto rickshaws and taxis could be seen plying apart from private transport. However, most shops and offices, near to main roads, remained shut. Almost all shops remained shut at business hub Lal Chowk.
Educational institutions across the city recorded very thin attendance. However, many government employees reached their offices. A woman employee, who wishes not to be named, said, “I left my house very late today, only after my brother called me and said that some buses were plying. If bus drivers observe shutdown, then naturally everyone does.”
A bus driver told JandK Now that the only reason he joined work today was that he saw other buses on work. “See when one bus comes on road, many others follow. It’s as simple as that,” the driver said. “But when curfew is imposed, then we don’t go to work.”
Another driver, Riyaz Ahmad, said, “There are many poor people in the business. Many drivers have something to eat in evening only when they earn in the day. So they take the risk and work.”
When asked why the bus drivers observed shutdown on certain days, he said, “Sometimes we feel there is greater danger, we may be hit by a bullet or stone. But when we see others going to work, we also join, mainly to earn bread.”
An auto rickshaw driver, Muhammad Faizan, said, “In 2008, there was shutdown for about a year but that did not serve any purpose, so what purpose would a one day shutdown serve?” He added that the drivers were helpless, as they had to earn their living.