Kashmir Trade Body to Sue Govt for Losses of Over $1 Billion After Shutdown

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Srinagar: Economic losses in Kashmir have run well over a billion dollars (around Rs 7,100 crore) since India revoked its autonomy and statehood in August, the main trade body in the Valley said, adding it planned to sue the government for damages.

The Centre bifurcated erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories, tightening control in a shock move it said would rein in militancy in the region also claimed by neighbouring Pakistan, and promote its development.

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But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said development was elusive, thanks to a protracted shutdown after people closed markets and businesses as a mark of protest, and for fear of reprisals from insurgents. It estimated economic losses ran into least $1.40 billion by September, but now exceeded that, said Nasir Khan, its senior vice president.

“We’ll ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the losses, because it is beyond us,” said Khan, adding telecoms blackout in the region meant the body could not reach business owners by telephone to prepare estimates. Instead, it had to send staff to meet them and gather details.

The home ministry and local government officials did not respond to detailed requests for comment.

Besides severing telecoms links ahead of its decision, the Centre imposed curbs on travel and sent thousands of troops to the heavily-militarised region, citing security concerns. Some curbs have since been eased, but access to the internet remains largely blocked.

India and Pakistan have tussled over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947, with each claiming the region in full but ruling it only in part.

For decades, India has battled insurgency in the portion it controls. It blames Pakistan for fuelling the strife, but Pakistan denies this, saying it gives only moral support to non-violent separatists.