SRINAGAR: Kashmir and Jammu divisions of the sensitive border State of J&K are heading towards confrontation as the beef ban issue has polarized the two regions, with rightwing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) threatening to enforce a 2008-like economic blockade on Kashmir, while traders of the Valley have warned of severing business ties with their counterparts in Jammu, even as separatists and Muslim clerics have called for slaughter of bovines on Eid-ul-Azha.
VHP State president Leela Karan Sharma has threatened to enforce a blockade of Kashmir if the J&K Legislative Assembly allows any discussion on revocation of ban on the sale of beef and cow slaughter in the State.
The Opposition National Conference, independent legislator Er Rashid, and CPM State secretary and MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami moved bills in the Assembly to scrap Section 298-A, 298-B, 298-C and 298-D of Ranbir Penal Code, which criminalises slaughter of bovines in the State.
Opposition parties and legislators moved the bills in the Assembly after J&K High Court’s Jammu wing on September 9 ordered the State Director General of Police to enforce ban on sale of beef in the State and take action against those indulging in its sale. The BJP also moved a bill in the Assembly to make cow slaughter punishable with death.
The Assembly session will begin on October 3. Opposing any attempt to revoke the beef ban in J&K, the VHP State president said that the people of Jammu would not tolerate any move of the State Assembly to scrap the beef ban law.
“The Government will have to face the consequences in case the beef ban is revoked,” he said and warned that saffron organisations would impose a strict economic blockade of Kashmir as was done in 2008.
During the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation in the State, saffron outfits including the BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena and traders of Jammu, enforced an economic blockade on Kashmir and did not allow any supplies to pass through the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway connecting Kashmir with Jammu. Kashmir is totally dependent on supplies via the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. Any disruption in vehicular movement on the highway will hit supplies in the Valley, thus creating shortage of foods, medicines and other essentials.
Reacting to the VHP’s economic blockade threat, Kashmir’s business community has hit back. “We want our counterparts in Jammu to explain their position - whether they want to do business with us or support the rightwing groups like VHP, who are hell-bent on dividing the State on communal lines,” said president of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation (KTMF), Yasin Khan.
Supporting the amendment in beef ban law to allow consumption of beef in the State, he threatened that if the VHP went ahead with the economic blockade, they would end their business ties with Jammu traders indefinitely. Khan said if such a situation arose, they would start full-fledged trade through the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route so that Kashmir did not remain dependent on Jammu region.
The traders of J&K and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (PcK) are allowed to do trade via Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route for four days a week.
The separatist leaders have condemned the VHP’s threat and dared the rightwing group to go ahead with its plan.
The separatists and clerics have asked people to defy the High Court ban on sale of beef and slaughter bovines on Eid-ul-Azha on September 25.