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    Shopian orchardists panic after truck driver's murder

    Synopsis

    Two of the suspected militants boarded the truck and directed Khan to drive it towards the highway. “After a few metres, Khan rammed the truck into a wall. The militants then asked him to block the junction leading to the highway,” a police official told ET.

    The murder has left orchardists, who had an understanding of transporting the harvested fruit at night, confused. “Apple trucks which left Shopian on October 9 are stuck at Qazigund due to highway blockade.(Representative Image)
    SRINAGAR: The killing of truck driver Sharief Khan by suspected militants in Shopian’s Shirmal on Monday has triggered panic among fruit growers in the area. Khan who had arrived from Rajasthan to transport apples was shot dead while he was loading the produce.

    His murder has left orchard owners baffled on how to deal with harvest and transportation of fruit. Apple harvest was delayed in some areas as militants directed orchardists to wait for orders, after the Centre removed the special status of J&K and split the state into two Union territories on August 5. After militants remained silent for weeks, fruit growers started harvest and transported apples at night.

    However, around 8 pm on Monday, 4-5 unidentified gunmen appeared at the spot where Sharief Khan and cleaner Ikram Khan, also from Rajasthan, were loading apple cartons into the truck with the help of a few locals. According to locals, everybody except driver Khan fled from the spot.

    Two of the suspected militants boarded the truck and directed Khan to drive it towards the highway. “After a few metres, Khan rammed the truck into a wall. The militants then asked him to block the junction leading to the highway,” a police official told ET.

    Within a few minutes, locals heard gunshots and rushed to spot. “The front portion of the truck was set ablaze and Khan’s half burnt body, with at least two gunshot wounds on the fore-head and mouth, were recovered from the spot,” said a local.

    The murder has left orchardists, who had an understanding of transporting the harvested fruit at night, confused. “Apple trucks which left Shopian on October 9 are stuck at Qazigund due to highway blockade. We don’t know what to make of the killing of the truck driver,” president of Shopian fruit mandi president Muhammad Ashraf Wani told ET.

    He said that fruit growers were scared and unable to evolve any strategy with millions of the ripe fruit set to rot in boxes or on trees.
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