SHOPIAN/NEW DELHi: Concerned at the killing of three non-Kashmiris by terrorists since Monday, the J&K administration on Thursday started herding the floating population of migrant labourers, truckers and fruit traders visiting south Kashmir into “safe houses” in Shopian and Pulwama .
Also taking measures to enhance security of ‘outsiders’ linked to apple trade, the district administration in Shopian has decided that the big trucks will ply only on the main roads and not venture into the interior areas. “The fruit growers have agreed to have the apples transported in smaller vehicles from the orchards to identified pick up points on the main road, where they will be loaded on the trucks . J&K police has put in additional security measures at the pick up points,” J&K DGP Dilbag Singh told TOI on Thursday.
Explaining why outsiders were being targeted, Singh said terrorists were specifically hitting people linked to apple trade. “Apples have largely been picked up from Pulwama but here in Shopian, the apples ripen later and hence are being transported only now. Shopian also happens to be a hub of terrorists. Hence the rising attacks.”
“Despite the killings, the highest ever transportation of the fruit — not only in this season but in the history of fruit trade here — was reported today (Thursday),” he said.
Shopian deputy commissioner Yasin Chowdhry said apple traders and truckers waiting for their shipments had been asked to assemble at the town’s new wholesale fruit market and its adjoining areas, where the administration would provide them secure lodging. “We are in the process of bringing them in. We should be having the exact headcount soon,” he told TOI.
Trucks have been barred from going directly into the orchards because terrorists might be lying in wait there. “The plan is to deploy porters and a fleet of smaller vehicles to carry fruit from the orchards till the highway so that the loading can be done there. The trucks will then move in a convoy with escorts,” an official said.
An apple trader from Punjab was shot dead in Shopian on Tuesday, hours after a brick kiln worker from Chhattisgarh was killed by terrorists in Pulwama. On Monday, a trucker from Rajasthan fell to terrorist bullets in Shopian. The three attacks in as many days prompted many truckers to flee the Valley without their fruit shipments.