Divided on strike, jewellers clash over opening of shops
The ongoing strike of jewellers over levying of excise duty turned ugly on Hambran Road here on Wednesday when the traders, who opened their shops, were allegedly beaten up inside their shops and later dragged in public.
Around 1 pm a procession of jewellers, who were on their way towards Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) former president Rajinder Bhandari’s house to submit a letter demanding rollback of excise duty, on noticing a few jewellery shops opened, got into a verbal argument. In no time, the conversation turned violent and the association members started beating up the shop owners and dragged them outside of their shops. The situation was brought under control only after the shops were forcibly shut down.
Sources said the jewellers in the district are divided over the issue of levying excise duty and have decided to call off the strike, especially when finance minister Arun Jaitly assured them that jewellers having annual revenue of 6 crore or above would only be liable to pay the excise duty, while the others would be exempted from the same.
Around 25 percent of the total small traders (jewellers), including a few shops at Sarafa bazaar, which is considered a hub for jewellery handiwork in the district, opened their shops on Wednesday.
To mark their dissent and woo the ruling government, the jewellers’ fraternity in the city had taken to selling vegetables, to beating utensils and breaking earthen pots among other methods in past three weeks.
On being asked about the mishandling of the traders, Sarjeevan Dheer, patron of Punjab Swarankar Sangh, said he had asked all the jewellers to remain shut, but some of them chose to open their shops. “We requested them, after which they closed their shops. There were some shops opened for cleaning purpose and clearing pending transactions (cheque clearances), but now every shop is closed in the city,” he added.
“This is a case of absolute high-handedness. All of a sudden, a crowd entered my jewellery shop and started assaulting me. We have been forced to down shutters. No one is safe in this city,” a jeweller, who was assaulted, said on condition of anonymity.
Ludhiana Jewellers’ Association president Anand Sikri said, “The strike is indefinite and there is no shop opened now.” Meanwhile, police reached the spot and took stock of the situation.