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No bread. No medicine. No milk powder. No wafers. No oil.

Aftermath of war: Kashmir refuses to accept goods from Jammu; situation so bad that Pakistani traders were asked to mediate. A report by Neelesh Misra. See Special Coverage

india Updated: Nov 10, 2008 00:56 IST
Neelesh Misra

Sudarshan Sharma has been looking out of the brown panes of his shop window for more than four months now. He is looking out for a white flag.

At some point, he hopes, the Kashmiri customers will return and declare truce.

Jammu and Kashmir is facing the aftermath of war, and the divide has reached Kashmiri homes and dining tables. Kashmiri traders and consumers are not accepting a wide range of products made or packaged in Jammu: everything from loaves of bread to medicine to milk powder to potato wafers to cooking oil.

While several products like rice are still being allowed, they have largely slammed the door on their partners of six decades -- traders in Jammu -- to retaliate against two months of nonstop protests in the city against Kashmiris.

Many Kashmiri traders are going as far as Rajasthan to buy goods – but refusing to buy from Jammu.

"They are stopping our trucks in Srinagar, they say they won't accept goods from Jammu. We are barely selling anything," Sharma said, as he sat behind his table waiting for customers in a dimly lit office.

It is a battle that is touching thousands of lives, from workers to consumers, and bleeding traders.

That means customers in Srinagar are likely to be turned away when they ask for a soft drink or some leading brands of salted snacks – both packaged in Jammu and sold in the Valley.

In the heart of jammu, trucks are parked outside rows of warehouses where workers laze in the late morning sun. A man walks by pushing his bicycle, selling colourful paper frills popular among drivers to decorate their trucks.

There are no takers. Nobody even looks up as he passes by.

The divide runs so deep that when Zulfiqar Abbasi, head of the chambers of commerce in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, visited the state last month, he was asked to step in.

"He mediated – he told the Kashmiris you should end this. He said `if you can't trade among yourselves, there is no meaning of trade across the Line of Control'," said Ram Sahay, president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Three hundred kilometres to the north in Srinagar, there is defiance and anger. The scale and bitterness of two months of violent protests across the Jammu region against Kashmir's perceived dominance left Kashmiris stunned.

For a few days at the time, trucks headed to Srinagar were unable to go to the valley, creating a crisis of goods. Kashmiri traders want to pay back now.

"We have documentary proof that our counterparts were congratulating the Sangharsh Samiti (which headed the agitation) on what they had done," said Mubeen Shah, president of Kashmir's chamber of commerce.

"The public is making it known to the other side that they don't want to buy products made in Jammu," Shah said by telephone. "Our traders don't even feel safe to go to Jammu."

In Jammu, Sharma's face lit up and he suspended the interview as three men walked into the shop. Potential customers.

"We want edible oil," one said. Sharma asked them to sit, looking for an early morning lucrative deal. But they broke his heart: they wanted just one can, and walked out in a minute when they disagreed on the price.

In Srinagar, the defiance does not look like easing anytime soon.

"Some people forget fast. Some people can't," said Shah.