With some Kashmiri traders complaining of “insecurity” at an exhibition underway at Himachal Bhawan in Chandigarh, Mirza Sajad Hussain Beigh, secretary general of the Jammu and Kashmir JD(U), arrived in the city Monday. He also met Director General of Police Sanjay Beniwal, along with Kashmiri students and traders.
Earlier, organisers of the India-Pakistan exhibition called ‘Libaas’ had covered up the phrase “Indo-Pak” using tape on all posters and hoardings of the event, amid anger over the Pulwama attack. While Pakistani traders did not attend the three-day exhibition, some Kashmiri traders who were also displaying their wares reported a drop in sales post the Pulwama attack. Others wound up and left for the Valley on Sunday itself.
Talking to Chandigarh Newsline, Sajad said, “4-5 of our Kashmiris wrapped up yesterday itself when some unidentified youths passed comments and asked them to leave. I was informed by those present here that they are not feeling safe at all and that is why I reached Chandigarh.”
Only four stalls remain at the exhibition — three of them displaying Kashmiri shawls and one selling dry fruits and kahwa. The JD(U) leader added that he spoke with local bodies and the police which also ensured the safety of the Kashmiris here.
“We are very pained due to the attack. We are Hindustanis and we too want all this to end. Those behind such attacks don’t have any religion. People should not see us with an eye of suspicion because we are Hindustanis. We too want peace,” Sajad said.
Safeer Malik, who was selling dry fruits and kahwa, said, “I was here last time as well. Where we would earn Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 in a day, we don’t even make Rs 3,000 now. People are showing a very indifferent attitude.” He added, “Only yesterday, some people told us that we better leave from here. When they pass by, they make objectionable remarks.”
Amir, who was selling Kashmiri shawls, said that this was the worst response he had ever got at the exhibition.
“Our sales have dropped by nearly 70 per cent. We don’t feel safe,” he added. The exhibition that started on Saturday, concluded Monday.
Organiser Pooja told Chandigarh Newsline that after the Pulwama attack, they had dropped their plan of having an India-Pakistan exhibition and changed the theme to international. “Pakistani traders decided not to attend it. As far as Kashmiris are concerned, only a few are left here,” she said.