KARGIL, Ladakh — “The Modi government has put us on thorns,” said Ahmed Hussain, as he opened seven gunny bags filled to the brim with dried apricots, his entire produce for this year.
“What message do I have for Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Nothing. We have received his message loud and clear for the past 72 days,” said the 61-year-old apricot farmer from Hardass village in Ladakh’s Kargil district, earlier this week.
Ahmed is angry because he had no chance of selling any of the dried apricots—the main source of his livelihood—after the Narendra Modi government unexpectedly revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special constitutional status on 5 August.
The government also severed Ladakh from J&K and made them Union Territories. While mobile phone services and the internet were blocked in the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley, mobile phone connectivity and broadband internet were quickly restored in Ladakh, where the majority Buddhist population welcomed the break from J&K.
Caught between the severe restrictions, the shutdown orchestrated by angry traders and transporters in Kashmir, and retaliation from militants, are those like Ahmed, for whom conducting any kind of business has become incredibly hard, even when they need the money.
“I have not sold anything this year,” he said. “I’ve taken loans and I owe money to a lot of people.”
While much has been written about the woes of the apple farmers of Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370, the plight of the apricot farmers of Kargil has received little attention from the media, the public or the government.
Government officials in Kargil told HuffPost India that an estimated 800 metric tonnes of dry apricot were transported to Kashmir last year. According to Haji Zaffar, the chief horticulture officer of Kargil, the revenue from the dried apricots was Rs32 crore in...