SRINAGAR: Fruit traders from various parts of the country currently camping in Kashmir Valley to buy apples from the local growers have been or are being escorted to ‘safer’ locations by the police and other security forces.
Also, the trucks in which the produce is to be transported out of the Valley have along with crew members taken to ‘secure’ locations, the officials said on Thursday
This comes a day after two apple buyers from Punjab’s Ferozpur district were shot by unidentified gunmen in Tranz area of southern Shopian district.
One of them Charanjit Singh was brought dead at a hospital in neighbouring Pulwama district whereas the condition of the other identified a Sanjiv Kumar is stated to be critical. The assailants also torched the truck in which the apple boxes bought by the duo were being loaded, the police had said.
The police blamed the gory incident on separatist militants.
The witnesses said that gunmen seized the apple-trader duo and about 18 non-local labourers at Tranz on Wednesday afternoon. They added that after releasing the labourers unharmed, they shot the traders from point blank range.
Earlier during the day on Wednesday, a brick kiln worker 29-year-old Sethi Kumar Sagar from Chhattisgarh was shot dead by suspected militants in Pulwama’s Nihama area.
Earlier on Monday night, gunmen had shot dead a truck driver from Rajasthan identified as Sharief Khan in Sindhoo-Shirmal village of Shopian. The gunmen had also torched his truck loaded with apples which were to be transported out of the Valley. The co-driver of the truck had escaped unhurt.
The police had said that two ‘terrorists’ including a suspected Pakistani national were involved in the incident.
Reports reached here from militancy-infested south Kashmir said that trucks and their crews — both owned or driven by local Kashmiris and outside operators have been targetted by gunmen at various places over the past few days. There have been a few kidnapping incidents also but these were resolved quietly and without any harm coming to the abductees owing to intervention by influential locals. Following these incidents panic-stricken growers pluck and pack fruit rather reluctantly, reports said.
In fact, entire Rs 8,000 crore fruit industry of the Valley which provides livelihood to 7 lakh families, directly and indirectly, is in distress due to the prevailing situation and persisting stalemate over the Centre’s stripping J&K of its special status and splitting the state into two Union territories.
The incidents of violence that took place in south of the Valley known as apple bowl of the Valley has made matters worse for both the growers and buyers and other stakeholders.
The officials of J&K’s horticulture department privately admit that, so far, only one fourth of the annual two million metric tonnes apple produce has been pushed successfully out of the Valley.
J&K Governor, Satya Pal Malik, has vowed to decimate those involved in these attacks. He said in an interview. “They will not be spared. We will go after them just as we killed three militants in Anantnag yesterday (Wednesday),” he said....