November 2001 News

Jammu goes the Srinagar way

8 November 2001
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

JAMMU: This winter, Jammu is no different from Srinagar The scare caused by the ''fidayeen'' (suicide attack) threats, a drastic decline in business and barricades outside sensitive places like the Civil Secretariat make the place resemble Srinagar, the State summer capital . The militants'' strike at the railway station in August changed everything here with tourists saying ''adieu'' to their favourite spot - Mata Vaishno Devi temple. A lacklustre Dussehra was seen as a setback to the flourishing business. And the strike call given by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress on the opening day of the ''darbar'' on November 5 added to the average businessman''s anger. It was only the Kashmiri customer that a Jammu shopkeeper depended on during winter. ''This was for the first time we had very little business during Dussehra as Vaishnodevi pilgrims did not turn up,'' said Ashok Kumar, a shopkeeper in the busy Raghunath Bazar. The trains were empty, a senior journalist, who travelled to Jammu on the day of Dussehra, confirmed. He recalled the days when there was no possibility of getting a berth during the season. The extension of the Disturbed Areas Act to the Jammu region sent a wrong signal to the rest of country, much so to the people of the region who had, till recently, been watching the ''miseries of Kashmir'' from a distance. But now, with the threat of ''fidayeen'' strikes looming large, authorities have implemented strict security measures. The road outside the Civil Secretariat has been closed conveying that ''all was not well with Jammu''. The barricades, which have become an inalienable part of a Kashmiri''s life, are seen here as well. ''We used to come here with a relief but this time it is not different from Srinagar,'' said a Government employee, who had grown tired of the frequent searches and friskings back home. The president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ram Sahai, confirmed the drastic decline in Jammu''s business. ''It is 60 to 70 per cent which is very disturbing,'' he said. The attack on the railway station proved disastrous for business as bookings were cancelled en masse after that. Mr. Sahai, however, did not agree with the view that the Disturbed Areas Act contributed to the low rush of pilgrims. The number of pilgrim tourists in October this year was 3,70,231 as against 5,58,816 during the same period last year and 5,25,161 in October 1999. There was no improvement in the situation, Mr. Sahai said adding that his organisation had been trying its best to make people aware that Jammu was safe as ever. Officials confirmed that after the DAA extension, the number of pilgrims has gone down drastically even as the situation has been calm after that. ''But it has a psychological impact'', they said. Security officials did not rule out ''fidayeen'' attacks here especially when the ''darbar'' is here. The Inspector-General, Border Security Force, Jammu frontier, Mr. Vijay Raman, said: ''the ''fidayeen'' attacks cannot be ruled out anywhere as they are people determined to kill and get killed''. But all precautions are being taken by the security forces to prevent them, he added.

 

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