Hundreds of shopkeepers and traders under the banner of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) and Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) Wednesday staged protest against what they termed as "arbitrary and unjustified" hike of rentals of shops leased out by Wakf Board.
Raising slogans against the decision, the traders said Wakf Board has "cheated" them by engaging them into negotiations and on the other side sending officials for recovery of rents at hiked rates.
"It is upto authorities what they prefer. Our priority is to talk and sort out issues amicably. The Wakf board headed by Chief Minister has to take final call that does it want dialogue or confrontation," they said.
They said that as per the agreement, Wakf is increasing 15 per cent rent after a specific period. "Today, Waqf has decided to hike the rentals upto 3000 percent," they alleged.
KCCI President Mushtaq Ahmad Wani and Secretary General KTMF Bashir Ahmad Kongposh, who were leading the demonstration, said, "the token protest was held to remind the concerned authorities that the traders' fraternity has not forgotten the ultimatum given to the government."
"We will resist such sinister moves of the government tooth and nail," said KTMF President Haji Muhammed Yasin Khan.
Stating that it was only a "curtain-raiser", Khan said the traders' fraternity "will take the case to its logical conclusion even if it means to take drastic measures."
"State government and the Wakf board authorities are dancing to the tunes of rightwing fanatics. The Wakf board authorities are behaving like RSS bhakts and it seems they have been guided to do so. We will give a befitting a reply soon which will surely shake the corridors of power," Khan said.
Farhan Kitab, publicity secretary KTMF accused the government of "depriving business community of rehabilitation of traders post 2014 floods."
"It was this government which remained a reason for months of unrest during which traders did not do any business. At a time when we are struggling for revival of business, the government is pushing us to another aggression," Kitab said.
"Hike in rent on Wakf assets will have a cascading effect on all shopkeepers across Kashmir. The business community was being pushed to the wall again and again and that it seems that the government wants the traders to take to streets than do business smoothly. We don't want to be at loggerheads with government and want to do our business but government is instigating us to take extreme steps. Government will be responsible for the repercussions," he said. They appealed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to intervene into the matter and resolve the issue amicably.