Of strikes, a holiday mood and continuing tragedy

For someone who spent reporting a very troubled Kashmir in the early 1990s, the situation in Srinagar feels very calm, notwithstanding what happened in Handwara.

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST

Published - April 12, 2016 10:12 pm IST - ANANTNAG

A deserted road and closed shops during a separatist strike call, in Anantnag on Tuesday. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

A deserted road and closed shops during a separatist strike call, in Anantnag on Tuesday. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

Driving the 60 kilometres from Srinagar to Anantnag was a breeze on Tuesday on account of the strike call given against the attacks on Kashmiri students in other parts of India. Usually crowded market spaces were bereft of traffic since shops were shut. Hawkers, however, did brisk business as people milled around. When separatist leaders give a call for a strike or bandh in Kashmir, the response from the shopkeeper is near total. Tuesday was no different. Standing around, talking to people it appeared that there was a near holiday atmosphere in both Anantnag and parts of Srinagar.

Reality check

But reality is never far away even in this atmosphere. Despite the fact that the presence of security forces has thinned down considerably, incidents continue to happen. Kashmiri lives continue to be lost even though it looks as if the Valley is going about its business as usual. Reports from Handwara in northern Kashmir suggest that two young men were allegedly shot dead by Army personnel. Whenever such incidents happen, allegations and counter-allegations fly around. Don’t expect it to be any different this time round.

This feels different

As someone who spent more than five years reporting a very troubled Kashmir from December 1989 to March 1995, the situation in Srinagar feels very calm to me notwithstanding >what happened in Handwara on Tuesday. Srinagar is almost bunker-free. You can travel anywhere in the city at night. There are fewer (Maruti) Gypsies full of security personnel. At strategic locations, you can see the deployment of security forces. But to me they don’t look so menacing anymore. Not when you have gone into the telegraph office to file your daily report for The Hindu after speaking to security personnel outside, only to find that they are dead when you come out an hour later.

Spirited buying

One can see that business is brisk at one of the few liquor outlets in Srinagar. People are busily buying their daily fix. Alcohol is also available in luxury hotels in the city, but all in all drinking remains a clandestine business here. At the beginning of militancy in the late 1980s and 1990s, many bars were smashed. Twenty five years later, at least one is open.

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