SRINAGAR: Militants went on a rampage on Thursday evening when they killed two non-local truck drivers and injured another while setting apple trucks on fire in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
 
The incident occurred at Chitragam Kalan village when two non-local truck drivers were busy loading apples late last evening. Sources said that the militants surfaced in the village and fired indiscriminately on the truck drivers. Two died on the spot while the third suffered grievous wounds. The injured truck driver was shifted to SMHS hospital for treatment.

This is the third incident that has rocked South Kashmir in the last week.

On October 14, militants appeared in Shirmal village and hijacked the truck along with the driver. After covering a few kilometres, they took the driver to a location where he was shot dead from point-blank range. Later, they set the truck ablaze before fleeing from the spot. The slain truck driver was identified as Sharief Khan from Rajasthan

Two days later, on October 16, militants unleashed a fresh wave of terror against the non-locals when they killed an apple trader and a migrant labourer in two separate incidents in Shopian and Pulwama districts of South Kashmir.

Rattled by the growing militant attacks on non-locals, the Jammu and Kashmir government had gone into overdrive to secure non-Kashmiri truckers. It shifted them to a newly established Fruit Mandi at Aglar in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.

 Fear has gripped fruit growers after the attacks on non-locals including apple traders and truck drivers in restive South Kashmir. Shopian is known as the apple bowl of South Kashmir. A large quantity of apple crop lies in the orchards and warehouses waiting to be exported to outside the state markets.

Kashmir’s fruit season starts in May when the first crop of cherry is harvested. It is followed by pears and other fruits which hit the market in the following months. Apple is almost the last crop that hits the market in autumn. The bulk of the apples is exported to the markets in Delhi. Some of the produce is also sold in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmadabad and other cities.

Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. The horticulture contributes seven per cent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.
More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares is under apple cultivation. Last year the fruit production, including dry fruits touched 23.30 lakh tonnes last year compared to 22.34 lakh tonnes in 2017.


Jammu and Kashmir is the largest producer of apples in the country with production touching 18.28 lakh metric tonnes last year. The apple production was 17.27 lakh metric tonnes in 2017.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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