Despite appeal by state consumer affairs and public distribution minister Choudhary Zulfikar to call off shutdown call, several traders bodies and schools' union on Friday appealed to people to boycott work and close down business centre's against alleged desecration and harassment of Muslims in Pir Panchal range's Rajouri district.
The shutdown call comes in the wake of burning of the Islamic State (IS) flag carrying an Islamic verse in Rajouri five days ago by Vishwa Hindu Parisahd (VHP) activists. However, the community apologised for the act of desecration saying "they did not know about the verse."
Kashmir's top traders' bodies, which include the Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) and Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), however, alleged a deliberate attempt is made to vitiate atmosphere here.
"The business fraternity condemns the forces bent upon disrupting the peace and drawing wedge between the communities who have the age-old history of brotherhood and community living. In protest we unanimously declare Kashmir bandh to be observed by one and all on July 25," said a joint statement.
Local Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) MLA from Rajouri and state minister Choudhary Zulfikar appealed to traders' bodies to withdraw their call. He claimed all 19 boys of Muslim community picked up by the police were released and a magisterial inquiry ordered.
"We have ensured that peace returns in the area and both communities are living normally," he said.
Meanwhile, the Joint Association of Private Schools has also backed the shutdown call.
Accusing the government of oppressing Jammu Muslims, JKLF chief Yasin Malik, also supported the shutdown call. "Attempts to frighten the Jammu Muslims at the behest of RSS are a conspiracy and this communal scheme is being backed up and supported by all pro-India parties and leaders of Jammu Kashmir including PDP, NC, Congress, communists etc, who have all along maintained criminal silence over these attempts," he said.
"This criminal silence and silent support is actually facilitating the ethnic cleansing of Jammu Muslims and it's an attempt to repeat 1947. Muslims of Kashmir will not remain silent spectators over this alarming situation and we will do everything possible to safeguard the rights and lives of Jammu Muslims," he added.
Rajouri muslims say no need for protests
Meanwhile, the Muslim community in Rajouri, protesting against the burning of the IS flag with religious inscriptions, has said since the Hindus have already tendered an apology for the incident, the issue stands resolved. They have appealed to the Muslims to not hold protests over the issue as the peace and communal harmony has returned.
"The issue stands resolved after an apology by Hindus. Though we appreciate the support extended by Muslims all over the state, we appeal that there is no need to hold further protests," said Maulana Shamsi Ahmad in a statement issued in Rajouri.
Senior leaders of the Muslim community Abdul Qyoom Dar, Shafat Mir and religious heads in a joint press conference in Rajouri said the issue stands resolved. They said the district administration should be given free hand in dealing with untoward incident in future and strict action should be taken against people disturbing peace.
Meanwhile, the authorities decided to lift the day curfew in Rajouri, though it was initially decided to relax it for just two hours (from 9 to 11 am). There was no disturbance after the Friday prayers. However, the internet services continue to remain suspended for the fourth day.
National Conference leader Shafkat Mir, who also played an important role in defusing the tense situation, condemned the action of district authorities in not allowing a delegation of NC-led by provincial president Devender Rana to enter Rajouri.