Srinagar: Following the call by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) earlier this week, several parts of the Kashmir Valley observed a complete shutdown on Saturday to protest the new land laws that, critics say, put the Union Territory up “for sale” to outsiders.
The shutdown coincides with the first anniversary of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, that divided the erstwhile state into two Union Territories, coming into effect.
Most shops, petrol pumps and other business establishments remained shut in Srinagar. Similar reports were received from other parts of the Valley.
Roads wore a deserted look as no to little traffic was plying in most of the areas. Public transport too stayed off the roads.
An added number of paramilitary forces and police, with many of them wearing riot gear in anticipation of protests as called for by Hurriyat, were seen patrolling the streets in Srinagar and other major towns and markets.
Pertinently, the APHC led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had on Wednesday called for a shutdown on October 31 against the Central government’s repealing of 12 land laws and amendment in 14 aimed at opening the Union Territory to the outside Indians.
The conglomerate had asked people to register their resentment against the new “anti-J&K laws” and demand their immediate withdrawal.
APHC denounced what it called “continued tactics of the Government of India to intimidate and psychologically torture the people of Jammu and Kashmir” and asserted that these “imperial moves” are bound to fail.
In a statement, the conglomerate said that India was undermining any possibility of peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
“Instead, a policy of permanent demographic change is aggressively being pushed to snatch our land, destroy our identity and turn us into a minority in our own land,” the statement said, adding that “laws are being invented and amended by New Delhi and forcibly thrust upon the people.”
“We the people of Jammu and Kashmir will not bow down. We will continue to resist the Indian State’s designs to steal our land and destroy our identity. Never give up,” APHC tweeted later on Friday.
In a notification issued on Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs made several changes to the erstwhile state land laws. The most important amendment has been doing away with the requirement of being a permanent resident of the state to be able to buy land in the Union Territory.
The move has triggered a wave of anger among the residents with today’s shutdown becoming a vent.
“Our voices since last year have been completely choked,” Al Jazeera quoted Mushtaq Wani, a 50-year-old businessman in Srinagar, as saying.
“This is our silent protest to contest the new laws. Our fate is like Palestine now – we will be made as slaves with no opportunities and no rights in our own homes. We don’t know when we will be thrown out of our own homes and we cannot say a word.”
With inputs from agencies