Police breaks locks, forces shuttered markets to open in Kashmir’s key markets

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The police broke locks and forcibly opened shuttered shops, eyewitnesses and shopkeepers said, in the key commercial centre of Lal Chowk on Thursday which marks the second anniversary of the abrogation of Kashmir’s limited autonomy.

The forcible opening of markets in Lal Chowk comes at a time when the police had warned the shopkeepers to desist from observing shutdown, or hartal.

Despite the police’s directive, however, the major markets in Srinagar including those in Lal Chowk and also in downtown had observed a shutdown.

In a series of videos posted on social media, policemen armed with assault rifles are seen directing shopkeepers to open the shops in Lal Chowk. One of the police officials in the video can be heard asking for a blade.

A shopkeeper in Lal Chowk told The Kashmir Walla that he had not planned to open his shop. “But a friend called me and told me that the police are breaking the locks,” he said. “So I came here to open my shop to save it from any damage.”

Another shopkeeper said: “If anybody else would have done any damage to our shops we could have complained to police but it’s the police itself which is doing it so who will we go to?”

Kashmir’s limited autonomy was abrogated two years ago and today marks the second anniversary of the decision when parliament scrapped Article 35A and diluted Article 370, the two laws which had guaranteed demographic protection to Jammu and Kashmir as well as the autonomous status to the region.

A reporter of The Kashmir Walla, who was present at the scene, said the police told the journalists to “turn their cameras off and not report” the incident.

The reporter also saw locks of many shops being broken by the police and shopkeepers forced to open shops. 

“Police have used blades [to cut the locks] and it seems like hooks of the shutters have been damaged by hammers,” the reporter said.

When asked about the incident of police breaking the locks of shops, Tanushree, SP (East) Srinagar city said: “I will not comment on that”.

The police had earlier this week summoned traders and shopkeepers from several parts of Srinagar including Lal Chowk markets and directed them to keep their business establishments open and not observe a shutdown on 5 August.

Tanushree, who is in-charge of the police in the key commercial area of Lal Chowk, had yesterday told The Kashmir Walla that the meetings were conducted with traders all over Srinagar. “From our side, (the position was) that the government will not support any hartal. We want everything to be normal. As it is today, it should be (like that) tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow,” she had said.

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