Srinagar: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Tuesday expressed outrage over looting of shops of Kashmiri traders in Rohru area of Shimla, even as it appealed to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to safeguard and protect Kashmiri businessmen and students across the country.

Addressing a news conference in Srinagar, KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said the chamber has been watching with growing concern, the “selective targeting” of Kashmiri businessmen, especially Handicraft dealers/Pheriwalla’s on social media through videos of hate speeches and physical violence, some exhorting people not to buy Kashmiri goods.

“To our knowledge, no investigation or action has been taken in any of the incidents. A hostile environment is being created and attempts made to stoke sectarian violence in various places across the country,” he said.

Ashiq said the incident in Shimla is the result of the hate propaganda gainst Kashmiris. “We appeal to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of the country to send a clear message for safeguarding and protecting the businessmen and students from Jammu and Kashmir wherever they may choose to be,” he said.

Ashiq asked the Governor’ Satya Pal Malik’s administration to depute a high level special team to Shimla including representatives from the KCCI for assessing the losses and to ensure that the lives and property of Kashmiri traders are safe and secure.

“We also humbly appeal to the saner elements of the society, including members of the business community, intellectuals, intelligentsia, civil society and others not to remain silent. It is the responsibility of all secular minded members of the society to take steps to protect the rights of Kashmiri people to freely conduct their businesses anywhere without fear or intimidation,” he said.

The KCCI also demanded that the guilty should be booked under more stringent provisions of criminal law, he said.

Criticizing the Himachal police for not taking action against the miscreants, Ashiq said the KCCI found it strange that despite videos of the vandalism readily available on the social media, the Himachal Pradesh Police has failed to make any arrests so far.

“This clearly points to goons being patronized by the State, which is deplorable. Such incidents cannot be allowed to be business as usual and remedial steps need to be taken for avoiding their repetition anywhere else.”

Several shopkeepers from the valley had alleged that their shops were looted by a mob on December 26.

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