Hawkers face the brunt of curfew
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Hawkers face the brunt of curfew

Newspaper hawkers all around the valley are facing tough times as their early morning schedule makes them the first to confront the government forces and often face their wrath.

Newspaper hawkers all around the valley are facing tough times as their early morning schedule makes them the first to confront the government forces and often face their wrath.

On August 19 three hawkers were beaten by CRPF in Old City's Safa Kadal area. A week before, two more had to face the brunt at Bemina and many more incidents of harassment go unreported. "I had gone to deliver the newspapers when CRPF personnel stopped me at Bemina. I tried to plead them about my job but they were very agitated. Feeling the heat I tried to flee but not before they hit my right arm with  a massive blow from their stick," said a hawker. "Even today I am unable to freely move my arm."

As the hawkers have to circumnavigate number of checkposts in their job to deliver the newspaper, they keep their fingers crossed about what to expect next from new set of soldiers. "At one naka, they allowed me to move ahead but just few meters away another naka party beat me up with sticks. I left the spot without uttering any word," said another hawker while narrating his tale of survival at Safakadal. "The situation is becoming extremely difficult for us to do our job. Right from Parimpora they seem to be on the lookout of blocking our movement."

At places even delivery vans have been targeted. "Be it collecting newspapers from printing press, distributing it to hawkers or delivering newspapers to homes, everywhere it has become a risky job," said a newspaper dealer. "After 15thAugust the situation has become particularly dangerous for us."

Every early morning there used to be a mini festivity of sorts at Exchange Road Lal Chowk where hawkers would converge to get their lot, but not anymore as recently CRPF made it a no entry zone after the declaration of 24 hour curfew. This has also hampered access to various printing press situation in Lal Chowk and Gawkadal area. Similar restriction are now in place at Parimpora, Bemina, Qamarwari, Nowhatta, Hawal and other places, hawkers alleged. The situation in rural areas is no different as in main towns and places where there is deployment, hawkers find themselves walking on thin ice. 

"Wherever there are forces we feel under threat. It depends on  the mood of a forces personnel whether I will be able to deliver a newspaper or not. If he is in bad mood then my locality would have to wait for another 24 hours to get the newspaper," said a hawker.

As most of hawkers don't have curfew passes, the situation becomes tricky for them. "As far as I remember such situation was prevalent in the strict curfew phase of 2010," said a hawker. "Listening to my risks and how I dodge forces, my family often pleads me not to venture out. But this is the only job I know what will I do. Secondly in this age of blockade people need information and this motivates us."

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