Seiged Life in Kashmir
Curfew has become a routine affair now. I feel caged and suffocated. The concept of normal life has become more of a dream now. Everything is uncertain. Initially I used to ask my neighbours about how they manage things under curfew, most of them used to say, “Tomorrow, we’ll do this and this... if they lift the curfew.” But now post-Eid, every detail of the life is controlled by the men in uniform. “We feel like caged animals,” “This is virtual imprisonment,” are some of the quick answers with a mix of anguish and laments from my family members.
Now there is no relaxation. No night-bazaars. Everything is so bleak and whimsical. One of my close neighbours, Ghulam Rasool Qazi who is a shopkeeper and sells cigarette and matchstick-boxes in his small wooden shop says, “I have to take care of my wife and myself with just 100 Rs and sometimes less than that. People prefer high quality brands of cigarettes which I can’t afford. So, I try to earn my livelihood with whatever is available with me,” he says with a deep sigh.
The couple hesitantly discloses that the constant trouble in the area at times have left them foodless for days together.
On a cracked wall, a calendar on which a rosary is hung, besides Bhat’s dead son’s picture who was killed in encounter during early 90’s , where he had made habit of encircling the days on calendar, when the situation is or presumed to be normal. “It seems to be a funny thing. But, all is fine in Kashmir. I had encircled the days with double circles when I had opened my shop. And so goes the rhythm with different symbols for different bandh calls and curfews with the charcoal as highlighter,” Bhat says. “But, now even program-chart is under siege.”
From all essential commodities to medical shops, banks and schools are closed. This time even curfew pass is not entertained. I fail to understand that how what would happen in case of an emergency. My parents say that we have been living in these circumstances from past two decades now. But, the magnitude of killing spree and curfews is very strange for them too.
My cousin brother, Asad, a resident of old city in Srinagar says, “The police and paramilitary CRPF are always spread over the main road. We can’t even dare to move out of our homes, given the some of the bitter experiences the people have faced by the men in uniform.”
While sharing his experience, Asad says that that the anger is visible on their faces (cops). Yesterday, Asad while peeping silently through the window panes of his home, he saw a young woman who while crossing the road was scolded and cops started screaming on her. “When I saw police with such a harsh mood, I preferred to resist my tooth pain, instead of becoming a target,” shared the woman while coming back from the lanes and byelanes of her home.
Many patients like her in different localities faced similar situations today. As life in Srinagar interiors has been put under stringent siege and people are left wanting for basic amenities.
The lighter part is that the people have become very cautious while taking food items. They fear that things can take worse turn, so it’s better to take full care of their health.
Curfew is punishing a common man at its best. Government hardly get affected with the stand-by of our economic activity and work. Our children do not go to school, the sick can’t go to doctor, the daily waged lose their daily wages. People are being killed. Yet, with the air-conditioned party-meetings nothing is being done on ground to break the vicious circle and this impasse.
One of my close-friend couldn’t attend the marriage part of her cousin, as her family was not allowed. “We are neither allowed to attend our social gatherings nor religious duties for no fault of ours. We are just handcuffed and caught,” she shares.
There are innumerable tales of penury and hopelessness under this siege from different pockets of the valley, yet everybody shares a same pain of helplessness and pain.