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Kashmir: Terrorist attacks on non-locals create fear, apple traders and truck drivers hit

Attack, stone-pelting and threats by Islamists are reportedly making many truck drives return with empty trucks, causing loss to their business and also hitting the apple farmers in the region.

The recent killings of non-local workers, traders and truck drivers by Islamic terrorists in Kashmir have provoked a sense of fear among non-locals who load their trucks and transport  Kashmiri apples to other states. Terrorised by the brutal killings unleashed by Kashmiri terrorists at various places across Kashmir, many truck drivers are now returning empty from the Valley.

Reportedly, after the successful abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, normalcy has been restored in the valley. However, an isolated Pakistan due to its desperation to internationalise the issue has been attempting to incite violence in the valley to disrupt the normalcy.

With Pakistan trying to meddle in Indian internal affairs, at least three non-locals have been shot dead by Islamic terrorists. In just last two weeks, two non-local truck drivers have been shot down by terrorists. In another such incident, an apple trader from Punjab named Charanjeet Singh was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the Shopian district last Wednesday.

Read: Truck drivers, apple traders, shopkeepers and migrant worker shot: Terrorists in Kashmir target business in the valley

These killing came two days after terrorists shot dead a truck driver from Rajasthan and assaulted an orchard owner in Shirmal village in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir. The truck, bearing a Rajasthan registration number, was set ablaze on its way to Jammu. The body of the driver was recovered from the truck.

In August, terrorists had shot and killed a 65-year-old shopkeeper for defying their diktat and keeping his shop open. On September 7, three fruit traders and a toddler were shot by terrorists in Sopore.

As per reports, after these attacks, a fresh wave of terror has gripped in the valley resulting in non-locals fearing to enter or stay in the state. Truck drivers camping in Kashmir valley to ferry apple boxes outside the state are living in constant fear after terrorist attacks on non-local workers. The main markets, where apple growers were bringing their crop from different orchards in the region are deserted.

Many truckers, which carry essential commodities and other goods for the people of Kashmir from Jammu and other parts of the country are being targeted and not allowed to load apples for different destinations in the country.

A report in the Daily Excelsior says that many vehicles have been attacked during the past one week and drivers are being beaten up by the mob in Shopian, Pulwama, Sopore, Srinagar and some other areas of Kashmir.

In recent weeks, more than 30,000 trucks have reportedly ferried apples outside the state. However, there are still truck drivers stranded in distant pockets. The local police have reportedly deployed extra forces in the are to instil confidence among truck drivers.

The truck drivers who were in the state to load the apples had to run for their lives following the attack. They returned to Narwal Fruit Mandi at Jammu during last two days and shared their horrifying experience in Kashmir. The truck drivers shared that there is fear among the truckers after Shopian incident where a truck driver from Rajasthan was burnt alive along with his vehicle.

Truck drivers gathered in Jammu have narrated that they have been forced to return with empty vehicles after being threatened by people in Kashmir. They report huge losses and say that nobody will go there if there is a risk to life.

Expressing their ordeal, truck drivers revealed that they went with empty trucks from Delhi, Jammu and Punjab to Kashmir to load apple but they were attacked with stones, lathis and were made to flee by the locals. Another truck driver said the locals threatened them to flee back to Jammu and asked not to come again. The driver stated that he suffered a loss of over Rs 35,000 and many truckers who were made to flee back are facing losses and damages.

The terrorist attacks have not only resulted in losses to non-local workers but also to the local Kashmiri apple growers, who are now facing the heat as no trucks are being able to transport their apples out of the state.

Mohammad Ashraf Wani, president of Fruit Mandi Association in Shopian, said that they are dependant on transporters from other states to export our apples. However, everyone is afraid and they also do not want these drivers to face any consequence.

“Our lives are completely dependent on apple business. If such incidents keep happening, it will only make things worse for us,” said Wani.  According to Wani, Shopian apple market has more than 200 locally-owned trucks but as per need, they require around 8,000 extra trucks, which usually come from outside states.

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