For 50-year-old Hafizullah Bazaz, whose Bazaz Cloth House on Aalikadal bridge makes a brisk business, Maharashtra has suddenly become important. But, not for the fidayeen terror Ajmal Amir Kasab’s early morning execution at Pune’s Yarawada Jail. Mr Bazaz, who lives at Narwara and runs a shop at Aalikadal, both in the deep interior of downtown Srinagar, is concerned over the way Shiv Sena cadres have bludgeoned into submission Mumbai’s Shaheen Dhada over her controversial Facebook post.
Mr Bazaz has had a detailed and comparative reading of how 21-year-old Ms Shaheen has been forced to delete her post, which was perceived to be “offensive” to the Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thakeray. “What about the people who ransacked the hospital of Shaheen’s uncle and sent threats to the family?” Mr Bazaz retorts when asked for his reaction to Kasab’s hanging to death.
“We the Kashmiris have got nothing to do with Kasab’s execution”, says he “as we are all convinced he has been eliminated for his involvement in an act of brazen terror”. “We can not identify ourselves with Kasab and his terrorism for ours is a political movement, a struggle for freedom”, adds Mr Bazaz, an ardent supporter of the Hurriyat chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Why should we call or observe shutdown on Kasab’s hanging?”
Mr Bazaz refuses to buy the Omar Abdullah government’s theory that the traders in Valley were “too much bitten” by two three-month-long street strikes in 2008 and 2010. He vehemently defends each of 1600-odd days of shutdown the Kashmiri militants and separatist leaders have enforced in the last 22 years of armed strife. “We have given sacrifices and we’ll continue (to give more in future) if our hartal is for Kashmir’s freedom. We have, in fact, developed an addiction for a shutdown”.
Mr Bazaz, nevertheless, has a big question for all those celebrating credibility of the Indian system of the administration of justice. Asks he: “Advaniji and his men brought down Babri Masjid years before Kasab struck on Mumbai. Who of them has been punished? All those responsible for Malegaon and Makka Masjid are Scot free. Even in Kashmir, hundreds of Ajmal Kasabs are roaming freely”.
Like the bustling marketplaces at Aalikadal, almost all shops and business establishments in the capital city, as also in all other parts of Kashmir valley, operated without an iota of tension or disturbance on Wednesday.
Eminent businessman and former President of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qallandar, echoed Mr Bazaz. “We shut businesses for a cause. Why should we mourn death of someone who was a dreaded terrorist and committed carnage?” asked he. Mr Qallandar, however, cautioned that the situation would be different and Kashmir would “burn” if Afzal Guru was hanged to death. “India”, he said “did justice to Kasab. But, Afzal Guru did not participate in the firing on Parliament”. He alleged that justice had been “bungled” in Guru’s case only to placate some zealots.
Hurriyat and all other separatist groups, who have had passion of making suo moto statements on each and every ‘newsy’ development, remained tightlipped.Both, Hyderpora and Rajourikadal, seats of the two factions of the Hurriyat---Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq---were calm all through the chilly hours of the day of Kasab’s execution. From Nowhatta’s Shaheed Muntazar Chowk to Bohrikadal Chowk on Nallah Maar Road The Hindu found just two shops shut---both for reasons not linked to Kasab’s death.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari admitted that the authorities were “extremely tense” over the potential of disturbance the separatists could create over a Pakistani militant’s execution by the Indian jail authorities. “Immediately after learning about it in the morning, we sounded a red alert”, Mr Bukhari disclosed. However, through an extensive tour of so-called “Chhotta Pakistan”, this correspondent did not find any columns of Police or Central Reserve Police Force that usually dot every street in Srinagar on the days of tension.