Kashmiri apples with anti-India and pro-Pakistani slogans such as 'Pakistan zindabad', 'we want freedom', 'I luv Burhan Wani' written on them with a black marker were found in boxes by fruit sellers in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, prompting a police inquiry.
The traders found the apples with pro-Pakistan and anti-India messages while unloading boxes at the Kathua fruit market after which they raised a protest and chanted anti-Pakistan slogans. The police questioned several traders in Kathua as well as Jammu about the boxes, which were shipped from Kashmir.
A police official said the boxes were sent to a trader in Jammu. Sanjeev Chib, Station House Officer, Kathua Police Station, said, “We have called the Jammu trader for questioning after the matter was brought to our notice. Our initial investigation has revealed that the apple boxes were transported from Kashmir.”
Jammu Fruit Association president Praveen Gupta said such incidents could disturb the peace. He added that police questioned some traders summoned from the main fruit market at Narwal in Jammu. “How are the local traders to be blamed?” he asked. “They received the fruit boxes from Srinagar. It is difficult to check all the 500 to 600 boxes packed in a truck.”
Gupta said the local traders shared the details of a fruit dealer from Kashmir who sent the apples. “Local traders gave the challan number of the dealer from whom the trucks were received. He may have in turn got them from some grower,” he said.
The fruit market in Kathua, where the traders protested, lies close to the main highway which serves as the arterial route for the transport that plies from Kashmir to the rest of India.
The fruit industry in Kashmir has been grappling with losses due to the closure of the main markets and the communication blockade, due to which dealers have been unable to contact their counterparts outside the state.
The police investigation comes at a time when terrorists, shaken by the brisk apple trade in Jammu and Kashmir, and desperate to stop any semblance of normalcy returning to the Valley, made a concerted effort to target migrants. The killing of a truck driver on Monday was followed by an attack on two Punjab-based apple traders on Wednesday in which one was killed and the other is in critical condition.
Police earlier said militants plastered posters in Sopore, a major apple growing area, telling local dealers not to open shops in the main market. The government earlier launched the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) to buy different varieties of apples from local growers, who have largely chosen not to opt for the scheme and are selling the fruit on their own outside the state.
Bashir Ahmad, president of Parimpora Fruit Mandi, said fruit growers in Kashmir were facing losses due to the increase in freight charges as fewer transport vehicles were plying between Kashmir and the rest of India. “Freight charges have nearly doubled compared to last year. Due to the closure of the fruit markets, rates have nearly declined by 30 to 40 percent,” Ahmad said.
Postpaid mobile services in the Valley were restored Monday for the first time since the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August.
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Updated Date: Oct 16, 2019 23:36:07 IST