The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hammers for Id in ‘bulldozer’ boss land

Srinagar, Feb. 11: Shopping for Id' How about shovels, hammers and crowbars'

Sounds strange, but in the domain of the “Bulldozer Boss”, the most sought after implements around the holy festival are tools that come handy in demolishing concrete.

Some shopkeepers are also advertising that they sell special tools to raze mortar and brick in the shortest possible time.

The rush for hammers seems a direct takeoff on chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s demolition drive, which has earned him the nickname “Bulldozer Boss of Kashmir”. In fact, a local newspaper cartoon shows him selling the same implements that are in demand.

Towns like Pampore are already being called “the Torah Borah” because of the massive demolitions the administration undertook to “beautify” them. To local residents, there is not much of a difference between the beautification drive and the pummelling of the Taliban stronghold in the mountains of Afghanistan — hence the name.

Those who have suffered resent the cleanup campaign the “hawker of the healing touch doctrine” has started. One of them is Tariq Ahmad, whose shop was razed.

“As he started peeling off our skin by demolishing our shops, we thought he was applying the balm. There is only pain and blood and no healing. My whole family depended on this shop for livelihood,’ says Tariq, who sells newspaper in Lambert Lane. “I had the proper permission from the Srinagar municipality but despite that my shop was razed to the ground.”

But Mohammad Salaam, the administrator of Srinagar municipality, is unmoved. “We will demolish all the unauthorised constructions in Kashmir. A majority of the people is with us to rid the city from the powerful encroachers. You see, the public pressure has grown so much that now the unauthorised constructions are being brought down by the owners themselves.”

So, when people should have been queuing up to buy traditional stuff like mutton, poultry and clothes, fear of Mufti’s bulldozers are making them demolish their unauthorised structures. They fear that the bulldozers would demolish both the authorised and unauthorised parts of business establishments they own.

Mufti’s ministers interpret this as “people’s voluntary association with the official demolition campaign”.

But many support the drive, too. “We support the campaign launched by Mufti sahib to rid the city of these encroachers. It was difficult for the people to walk on the footpaths,” says Dr Abdul Rashid.

If the shopkeepers are anxious, their fear is gradually translating itself into the general mood in the Valley, with most people keeping their wallets firmly tucked in their pockets.

The Id rush failed to pick up even on the festival’s eve. There were no jamming crowds on the streets and no hectic buying. Shopkeepers blame the demolitions, which according to them have unsettled business in the summer capital. “I am busy repairing my shop. My priority right now is to guard it and the goods. The people also are keeping away,” says M.A. Shah.

Others, however, blame the recession. “People are visiting my shop but no one is buying,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, another shopkeeper.

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