CCI may be on warpath
Prof. (Hari Om)
Is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), Jammu, planning to take recourse to an extreme step and start an indefinite strike? If what the otherwise quite moderate and peace-loving president of the CCI Y.V. Sharma told reporters in Jammu on September 18 is any indication, then it can be said without any hesitation that Jammu could be on the warpath anytime after a couple of days. Talking to reporters, Sharma, along with his colleagues, had, among other things, said: “The Chamber may call for an indefinite strike or launch a non-cooperation movement against the government if it doesn’t adopt the trader-friendly policy” and accused the government of “ignoring the demands of the traders”.
“The government had assured the Chamber that it will assess the losses suffered by the victims of Kishtwar riots (read violence as certain anti-India elements and extremists had targeted the members of the minority community after offering Eid prayers on August 9 and there is nothing on the ground which could even remotely suggest that the minority community had played some mischief to provoke members of the majority community to attack them or avenge the mischief) within a month,” Sharma also said, and added that the state government had made a solemn commitment that it will compensate the victims of violence on the basis of “actual loss…in the next 30 days of the assessment of loss”.
What provoked the CCI to threaten an indefinite strike? It was, according to him, the recent cabinet decision wherein it was announced that in all the cases the limit of compensation will be between Rs. 2 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh, irrespective of the extent of the loss. The other provocation was the condition that the compensation will be distributed equally between the owners of the shops and the tenants doing business in the said shops. Sharma took exception to this condition saying that the CCI had been given to understand that “this order would be applicable retrospectively with effect from April 1, 2013″. “It is a breach of trust,” Sharma stated bemoaning the arbitrary conduct of the concerned authorities.
As a matter of fact, the CCI leadership charged the authorities with going back on their solemn commitment that had induced it to call off its strike last month against what it called the official “inaction” in Kishtwar. “The CCI withdrew its strike only after the express assurance of the Chief Minister and his team of ministers involved in the dialogue that the traders must be paid full compensation for the losses they suffered” on August 9, when Kishtwar witnessed violence on an unprecedented scale with the hooligans and anti-national elements attacking members of the minority community, looting and plundering their shops and business establishments and setting on fire their properties and vehicles, including cars.
According to one estimate, the anti-national elements had set on fire more than 80 properties of the minority community, including shops and other establishments, besides other things, including even government vehicles and petrol tankers. The violence had also resulted in three deaths and injuries to several others, some of whom had to be airlifted to Army Hospital, Udhampur, and Jammu Medical College Hospital for immediate treatment. The Army had to airlift the injured civilians as those who controlled the Kishtwar District Hospital had refused admission to the injured civilians belonging to the minority community.
The situation in Kishtwar would not have deteriorated to the extent it deteriorated had the law and order authorities and certain important elements in the government and local civil administration taken all the precautionary measures and acted in time and enforced curfew strictly. It may be pointed out that the local authorities had announced curfew at about 12 noon but it was enforced only after 7 p.m. for the reasons best known to them. It was this act on their part that enabled the goons and votaries of Great Kashmir and Pakistan to enact the drama of death and destruction with utmost ease and go scot-free. The Army swung into action after 7 p.m. and brought the situation under control.
It would not be out of place to mention here that Kishtwar and the adjoining affected towns remained under curfew for days together as the authorities apprehended more trouble there. It is also important to note that the organized violence had made a number of families belonging to the minority community migrate to safer places. In fact, some of them did migrate, but returned to their original habitat after the situation got normal and the community leaders played an important role. The gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that the Minister of State Home Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo, who hails from Kishtwar and was there when violence broke out, had to tender resignation on August 12, the day the Indian Parliament took up the Kishtwar issue in a big way and the entire opposition comprising the BJP, the CPI, the CPI-M, the BSP, the TDP, the TMC and other parties in one voice condemned the planned violence and demanded stringent action against the culprits. Indeed, the entire opposition held the state government responsible for the unfortunate and avoidable gory incident with the BSP even demanding its dismissal and imposition of the Governor’s Rule, the CPI-M accusing the state government of allowing the situation to deteriorate and the BJP telling the ruling clique that the state did not belong to “one family”.
What happened on August 9 continues to cause concern even today. And what the CCI said has to be viewed in this context. The state government would do well to address its concerns and concede its demands, which are genuine by any yardstick. Their demands include compensation to the victims based on the actual loss and rehabilitation of all the victims of Kishtwar tragedy in a way that they harbour no ill will or grudge against the authorities. Even otherwise, the authorities are required to go an extra mile to assuage the hurt feelings of the victims of violence and, hence, it is imperative to concede the demands as put forth by the CCI on behalf of the affected people.