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Spontaneous shutdown in Kashmir on Article 370 anniversary even as police ‘force’ shopkeepers to open establishments

Most shops were shut in parts of Srinagar on Thursday on the second anniversary of the unilateral revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, even as the situation remained peaceful, even as police had called various trader bodies and asked them to keep their shops open and not to observe a shutdown.

While shops in several areas of the city, including the Lal Chowk city centre, were closed, those in other areas such as in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district and parts of Budgam, Ganderbal and Kupwara were open.

However, shopkeepers in many areas, including Lal Chowk, alleged that police were forcing them to keep their establishments open. Many of them claimed police broke open the locks of their shops.

The officials said public transport remained off the roads in several areas of the city.

While no strike call was given by any separatist group, many areas witnessed a spontaneous shutdown.

The police termed a letter in the name of hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is under house-detention, calling for a shutdown “fake”.

They added that action was being taken against those uploading or sharing the letter.

The officials said the situation across the Valley was peaceful so far.

“Police on Tuesday told our market’s president that shops should remain open on Thursday. If someone fails to do so, he will be himself responsible for the consequences,” The Hindustan Times reported quoting one of the traders from market opposite Kashmir Haat as saying.

The trader, according to the report, said that police officials visited the market on August 4 and reiterated that shops should be kept open on Thursday.

One such video has also gone viral on social media sites. The video shows a group of men using iron rods and blades to break the locks of the shops in Lal Chowk.

“August 5 is a day when our special status was snatched away from us. Our conscience won’t allow us to open shops,” he said.

The report quoting Kashmir Chamber of Industries and Commerce president Sheikh Ashiq said that traders have been getting calls from police.

“I also came to know that there is some exercise going on though I didn’t get any call from the police personally. Traders called me saying that they have been called by the police. We are business people and we should not have been brought into this,” the president was quoted as saying.

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