Truckers attacked by mobs in Kashmir, returning empty

Empty trucks, which returned from Kashmir after attacks, parked at Narwal Fruit Mandi in Jammu. — Excelsior/Rakesh
Empty trucks, which returned from Kashmir after attacks, parked at Narwal Fruit Mandi in Jammu. — Excelsior/Rakesh

We carry goods for them but they beat us, damage vehicles

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Oct 20: Terro-rised by the violent acts of mob at various places across Kashmir, many truck drivers who had gone to the Valley for bringing apples are returning empty. They are suffering huge losses as they are made to flee towards Jammu.
While many truckers are carrying essential commodities and others goods for the people of Kashmir from Jammu and other parts of the country, but unfortunately, they are being targeted and not allowed to load apples for different destinations in the country. Scores of vehicles were reported to have been attacked during past about one week and drivers beaten up by the mob in Shopian, Pulwama, Sopore, Srinagar and some other areas of Kashmir.
Scores of truck drivers who ran for their lives and returned to Narwal Fruit Mandi at Jammu during last two days shared their horrifying experience in Kashmir. They alleged that there is fear among the truckers after Shopian incident where a truck driver from Rajasthan was burnt alive along with his vehicle and followed by some more incidents of attacks on truckers in Valley. They said that drivers are being forced by the Government authorities to go to Kashmir and fetch apples but there is no security for them. Many Kashmir bound loaded trucks are parked at Jammu and drivers are reluctant to go to Kashmir.
Some drivers revealed that they went with empty trucks from Delhi, Jammu and Punjab to Kashmir for bringing fruits/ apple but were attacked and made to flee by the local youth/ mob. “They indulge in stone pelting and beating drivers with lathis. No body would dare to go at such a place. There is no adequate security for us and under such circumstances, we would prefer to operate on other routes,” the drivers maintained.
While talking to the EXCELSIOR at Narwal Fruit Mandi in Jammu today, truck driver Prem Singh from Punjab revealed that he had gone to Shopian to load apple boxes to be transported to Delhi Fruit Mandi but some youth with lathis intercepted the truck near a village, smashed window panes and wind screen and also beat up him and his cleaner. His cleaner was injured in stone- pelting there. Singh said the youth in mob threatened them to flee back to Jammu and asked not to come again. He said they hurled filthy abuses and then he ran for safety to Jammu with empty truck. Prem said he suffered loss of over Rs 35,000 and many truckers who were made to flee back are facing losses and damages.
Another truck driver, Hardev Singh from Haryana said he also returned with empty truck. Singh said he was going to Sopore Mandi along with three other trucks. The mob intercepted trucks on the outskirts of Srinagar during night and attacked. They pelted stones on vehicles and made to flee. One of the vehicles No 6628 was set on fire during night.
“We too came to Jammu over night with empty vehicles. The fate of other people in truck was not yet known as no contact could be established with them,” he said.
He added the Government must provide security to the drivers otherwise, they would not go to Kashmir with goods. He said the matter will be taken up with Truck Unions in Jammu, Punjab, Delhi and other parts of the country and decision to stop supplies to Kashmir and apples from Kashmir to other parts of the country would be taken shortly.
“No body would go there at the cost of threat to their lives. Due to attacks and sending empty vehicles from Kashmir, the truckers are facing huge losses. A sense of fear prevails among the truckers and they would not like to go there. Many incidents have gone unreported anywhere,” Singh maintained.
Another trucker Bishan Singh from Ramban revealed that he arrived at Narwal Fruit Mandi with loaded apple boxes from Kashmir but the situation is very bad there. He said 7-8 truck drivers returned empty from Pulwama area where they had gone to fetch apple boxes.
“As per my knowledge, one truck was burnt at Shopian hew days back and two truckers killed but it is true that drivers are being targeted there after. Their vehicles are being damaged in the interior areas by the mob and they are feeling insecure. There is need to remain very cautious always while carrying goods to Kashmir or coming back from there. The local public must realize that truckers/ oil tanker operators are carrying food, fuel and other items for them from various parts of the country and they are targeting them. Who would like to go to Kashmir with goods under such circumstances,”? Bishan asked.
Trucker Jasbir Singh from Delhi while showing wounds on his arm due to attack by lathis in Shopian area by some youth yesterday said he along with his cleaner, ran for their lives. He said there were some local boys equipped with lathis, some had covered half of their face with cloth. They threatened not to come there again.
“The driver said he got treatment at Jammu and was not able to drive properly due to pain in wrist. There is fear among the drivers and without security cover, no goods carrier operator would go to Kashmir,” Jasbir said.
Another driver, Mohd Shakir from Haryana said he had gone along with five truckers to Shopian area. The security forces men told them that there was operation with militants going on in the area and there was danger to their lives. They should not move ahead. He said all the truckers returned empty to Jammu. They remained stranded in Ramban area due to blockade for long and faced lot of hardships. He said they all wasted three days and suffered losses worth lakhs.
“The Government/authorities are responsible who had forced them to go to Kashmir to fetch apples which are getting rotten at many places there. On Diwali there is huge demand of apples in country but who would like to suffer losses and damage to vehicles. Moreover, situation is not conducive for the truck operators there,” he said, adding they have parked trucks at Narwal Fruit Mandi, Jammu since yesterday with the hope to get goods loaded here for some other destinations to cover up some losses.