It’s harvest time, but the market in the Indian occupied Kashmiri town of Sopore, usually packed with people, trucks and produce at this time of year, is empty, while in orchards across India’s Jammu and Kashmir state unpicked apples rot on the branch.
In one of the world’s largest apple growing regions, the Kashmiri economy has been suffering from the shutdown since the past 46 days as markets remain shut, leaving traders and direct and indirect employees in the lurch.
The lockdown has cut transport links with buyers in India and abroad, fruit growers and traders say, plunging the industry into turmoil.
At dawn late last week the market in Sopore, a town known locally as “Little London” for its lush orchards, big houses and relative affluence, was deserted, its gates locked.
“Everyone is scared,” a lone trader, rushing to an adjoining mosque for morning prayers, told international news agency “No one will come.”
Even the truck drivers, who managed to reach the mandi haven’t been able to transport anything out. We are here since last few days, but we haven’t been able to do anything, said a truck driver.
Apples are the lifeblood of Kashmir’s economy, involving 3.5 million people, around half the population of the state.
However, farmers and fruit traders say the clampdown is stopping them from either getting their produce to market or shipping it out to the rest of India. Some say they have also been threatened into stopping work by militant groups.