20 shops bulldozed in Leh in a jiffy

Affected Kashmiri shopkeepers protest; DC confirms action

ABID BASHIR

Srinagar, Nov 7: At least 20 shops belonging to Kashmiris were raised to ground in Leh region of Ladakh on Wednesday to “pave way for road-widening,” triggering protests. The shops were demolished at the Leh vegetable and fruit market for road widening under a “modernization program” approved by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC).
 Reports said half a dozen shopkeepers were injured in the demolition drive while trying to save their stock. The move evoked sharp criticism from the Vegetable and Fruit Association Leh that accused the LAHDC of going for “lopsided demolition drive.”
 “We are running our shops for the past 40 years and the authorities wanted to shift us to an earthquake prone zone,” said President of the Association Nazir Ahmed Gangoo. “The authorities came with bulldozers and demolished all 20 shops and caused heavy damage to stock of fruit and vegetables.”
 Gangoo said the drive was carried out on instructions from the Deputy Commissioner Leh. “The officials misbehaved with us. Six shopkeepers were injured in the demolition drive,” he said.
 He said the alternate place was the earthquake prone area and doesn’t suit the shopkeepers. “All the 20 demolished shops belong to Kashmiris,” he said.
 Secretary of the Association Abdus Samad Mir alleged that when they tried to seek help from the authorities, especially police, they were chased away.  “We sell vegetables, fruits, eggs and chicken from last two decades in the market. We are serving the locals even in the harsh winters to earn our livelihood,” he said. “The authorities did not intimate us before demolishing our shops.”
 Superintendent of Police, Leh, Vivek Gupta, however, claimed that there was no police action in the demolition drive. “There was no role of police,” he said.
 Meanwhile Deputy Commissioner Leh T Angchuk said the plan has been approved by the LAHDC way back under a modernization plan. “At the present site where these shops stand, road has to be widened,” he said. “It is not that we didn’t give them any ultimatum. We have been given them repeated warnings. But the shopkeepers instead went to the High Court and filed a suit against the move,” Angchuk said.
 He said the Court termed the shopkeepers claims as “null and void” and also directed for the demolition of the shops. “The shops were supposed to be demolished by Eid-ul-Adha. We gave them extra time,” Angchuk claimed.
 He said the authorities have provided the shopkeepers with an alternative space that can accommodate 25 shops. “All facilities are there for them,” he said.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 7 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 7 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 8 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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