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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.

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Life sieged by Bandhs:

I have many childhood and youth memories of the time I spent in Srinagar in my maternal uncle's big house in karan nagar area. we were children of the big joint family of my mother Chandrani Chaku. though my parents had shifted to delhi, the capital of India, many years before the insurgency due to the Pakistan supported militancy in 1990 took place, we used to regularly visit our grandparents and other family members and friends, every school and college holiday. we had Muslim neighbors who protected my young aunts from rape and other violence perpetrated by the invading Afghan and other men in 1947, on women and men belonging to other communities than Muslims. but not all Muslims agreed with their terroristic methods. the same happened in 1990, and though I agree that the Indian state has had its selfish interests too in sending the security forces to stop the invasion my Islamic Fundamentalists into the state of Jammu and Kashmir, fact is that we Kashmiri non-Muslims would have not been able to live peacefully as we have been living there since the last few thousand years, had the invaders not been stopped by the Indian security forces. and yet many had to flee, hundreds of thousands of us kashmiri Hindus are homeless now since 20 or more years. we all long to go back to our ancestral homes. i went to my maternal uncles house in 2010 only to find that the old house has been demolished and a Mall is being constructed there by the new owner, a rich Muslim guy. i had tears in my eyes when I walked around that totally different looking place, crowded with new buildings, where I used to roam around freely as a young girl. my eldest aunt used to live a few hundred meters away and her daughter is still living there with her in laws. they are a big family of educationists and run a couple of schools and colleges. her father in law is a senior professor at the university of Kashmir. they told me also that though they continue living there as one of the few Non Muslim families, but they do not anymore find it as homely as before. there was too much noise from the many mosques built all around and the regular and loud sermonising by the maulvis. i felt sick last time when I was in Srinagar in August 2011 and I realised all too well what they meant, the constant loud messages from the Mosques did not let me sleep and take rest. similarly I felt very alien and disturbed when I heard the same noise from the mosque in the university campus. I was very disturbed to note the change that has come around the whole area in the valley due to Muslim domination. earlier we had temples and mosques together now there is this monocultre, which is not typical for the Kashmiri culture which is called Kashmiriyat, a Sufi mix of Islam and Hinduism, which let everyone live and let live. I also heard the local working class Muslims, the Shikara wallas and the auto-rikshaw wallas complaining about the regular Bandhs (closure of daily business and life in general), dictated by separatist leaders like Geelani. they complained that these leaders send their children to USA for studies, but they cannot afford that, also because their business suffers due to regular Bandhs. so there are a number of disturbing factors in the valley. it is wrong to put the whole blame one-sided on the security forces and the Indian as well as the state Govt. if we would all together work towards removal of religious fundamentalism of all colours, we could live peacefully anywhere in India or abroad.

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