In Kashmir, Residents Observe ‘Civil Curfew’ Against Government

Shops and business establishments open only briefly in ‘undeclared’ shutdown to protest against the Centre’s move.

Lal Chowk, Srinagar, Kashmir
Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald

Srinagar: Government-imposed restrictions and communication blackout continue to paralyse life in Kashmir with the security clampdown entering the 18th day on Friday. Alongside, there is a parallel ‘undeclared’ shutdown being observed by residents in most parts of the Valley to express their resentment against the Centre’s move and the ongoing crisis.

Hundreds of shops at the city centre, Lal Chowk, remain shut. In residential areas, however, the shops open early morning and late evening. It is during this time that people buy household essentials.

Even if the curfew is lifted by the government, the shopkeepers say they are keeping their shops closed as a mark of protest. “We are following a civil curfew against the government and it’s important we register our protest this time,” a shopkeeper in Jawahar Nagar said.

With all shops and business establishments across the Valley closed, the losses incurred by people are ‘enormous.’

For Asif, a cloth merchant in Lal Chowk’s HSH Street, summer is peak season. “Most weddings happen during August and September and that’s the main time for business, but this year it’s over,” he says.

This year, the situation for businessmen became a little more difficult when the government directive came asking tourists and Amarnath Yatris to leave the restive Valley. The advisories scared hundreds of skilled labourers who worked in the state’s informal sector as tailors, painters, goldsmith, hairdressers and so on.

“I have a massive backlog because most of my workers left but since my clients can’t reach me, I think weddings have either been cancelled or postponed,” another shopkeeper in Lal Chowk’s Bund says.

A non-Kashmiri hairdresser, who decided to stay back in Nowgam’s Wanbal locality, is witnessing a huge rush these days. His friend from Bihar has a tyre-repairing shop in the same locality. Both follow the same work timings – early morning till 9 a.m and then after 6 pm.

All the wedding invitations for August have been either cancelled or postponed or are being conducted as low-key affairs. Residents says it is usually difficult to attend weddings and ‘often dangerous.’

Travelling with his wife and brother, an invitee coming from Srinagar’s outskirts of Soura managed to travel nearly eight km in his car, but another one km to Nowhatta was not that easy. It is a wedding ceremony of a close family member which is why, he says, he must reach there.

“Even attending weddings is a task. I left my car midway in the vicinity of a college hoping to reach there on foot,” the person in his mid-40s told NewsClick.

Most weddings have gone austere as the single largest highlight of a Kashmiri wedding– Wazwan — which costs in lakhs for an average lunch for 200-300 people, stands cancelled. People say they have taken measures to avoid extravagance during weddings or other functions in solidarity with the community.    

Saalim, a young entrepreneur, is getting get married this month. “I think I am left with a pair of jeans only,” he said. “The trouble is preparations were made for grand celebrations and then all of a sudden, you can’t celebrate,” he adds.

The people are as angry about the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state as they are about government’s enforced communication blockade and the sudden crackdown on August 5.

Hundreds of parents wait for their turn to call their children from the landline inside the DC office in Srinagar. Some of them allege the process of waiting inside the facilitation centre is ‘extremely humiliating’.

“We have come as early as 7 in the morning and its 1 p.m and I still I haven’t made the call. The administration is using our longing for our children against us. This is blackmail,” a resident of old Srinagar, waiting to call his son, says.

Some landlines in several civil line areas have started working, bringing some respite to some families, while some others are rushing to the BSNL exchange offices either to pay their longstanding bills or to get their old landline connections restored.

“We are witnessing a huge rush. In four Srinagar exchanges, we have restored connections to civil line areas only. People are turning up here in huge numbers,” a BSNL employee in Barzullah exchange says.

According to a government spokesperson, as many as 63,000 landline connections have been restored across the state, but Lal Chowk and most Srinagar areas, including the Downtown, still await restoration. And, many schools are located in this vicinity.

Even as the government claims that schools have started to function, almost all schools in Srinagar remain shut. “Given the ongoing situation, how can you think we will send our children to school. The government is talking irrationally,” Tasaduq, a father of two, told Newsclick.

“No one comes here, no teachers or students, only a few persons from the caretaker staff are inside,” the doorkeeper at Oasis International School in Gojgi Bagh says.

“It’s not about the education, we won’t send our kids to school to be used as a sign of fake normalcy,” Tasaduq adds.

Many other schools are completely locked. Not just the schools, due to restrictions, school children are unable to attend private tuition classes as well.

Courtesy: News Click



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