A Jammu bandh call given by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) evoked a massive response impacting normal life across the Jammu region on Wednesday.
Protests and rallies were taken out at various places of the region for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370. Though some sections of Jammu had supported the abrogation of Article 370, they are now angry over various decisions of the government including new excise policy, new regulations on bars and restaurants, the closing of the 149-year-old practice of Darbar Move, new Geology and Mining policies, restrictions on banquet halls and proposed opening of a chain of Reliance Retail stores. The JCCI said all these moves have disturbed Jammu trade adversely.
In almost all districts of the Jammu region markets wore a deserted look with shops and business establishments including chemist shops remained closed. The public and private traffic were also off the roads. The strike, which got support from almost all political parties except the BJP, remained peaceful with no untoward incident reported from anywhere. As the high court bar association, Jammu supported the call the work in courts remained affected.
“We were told no trade of Jammu will be disturbed but the way the trade has been disturbed it will not be tolerated for long. Already our businesses have been disturbed. We don’t want people from outside to come here to disturb our businesses and start ruling the way East India Company was,” Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) president Arun Gupta told reporters in Jammu. “We were told Jammu trade will not be disturbed but it has been already distributed,” Gupta added.
S. Gajan Singh Khajuria president of J&K Motor Transport Companies Association (JKMTCA) told reporters that transporters are with the bandh. He said if there are some vehicles plying on the roads today they might be some government officials or those having emergencies. He said those opposing the call or any such steps are anti-Jammu. “Everyone should come forward and raise their voice for the rights of Jammu,” he added. He said the administration should realize they are here for the Jammu people. “In this administration, there are fewer people from Jammu. The present administration is dominated by outsiders. They don’t know anything about issues of Jammu,” Khajuria said.
Jammu and Kashmir administration in June this year cancelled residential accommodations of 'Darbar Move' employees in Jammu and Srinagar and with it ended the 149-year-old biannual tradition of government officials shifting capitals between Srinagar and Jammu.
Prior to this, about 10,000 employees working in the civil secretariats in Jammu and Srinagar would move between the two cities twice every year as the administration would use Jammu as its winter capital and Srinagar as its summer capital. This practice was known as the ‘Darbar Move’. Jammu traders say the Darbar move was enhancing trade between the two regions.
Traders have issues with the new excise policy under which an auction for 228 liquor shops in Jammu and Kashmir took place in April this year. According to the wine traders, the majority of 228 liquor traders of Jammu lost their shops in the e-auction to outsiders and only 15-20 could retain their licenses. Later those 20 operators were told to seek NOC documents from at least 21 departments to get the license renewed.
The allotment of mining contracts to outsiders also created anxiety both in Jammu and Kashmir. The participation of the outsiders in the bidding process for mining contracts became possible only after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019. The government has allotted 25 minor mineral contracts to outsiders in J&K and most of the allotments have been made in the Jammu region and three are Kashmir. Before abrogation of Article 370, the BJP had opposed the allotment of mining contracts to outsiders. With the proposal to open new reliance retail stores, Jammu traders say the government is out to render them jobless.
Under Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir had a separate constitution called the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and also Article 35A was prohibiting people from outside from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir and ensuring job reservation for residents. More than Article 370, Kashmiris were particular about Article 35A of the constitution.
Article 35A would empower the government of J&K to define a class of persons as constituting “permanent residents” of the erstwhile State, who would be given state subjects. But Article 35A was linked with Article 370 even though they were both separate Articles.