On any restriction day in downtown Srinagar, one can witness ailing persons pleading with their hospital documents near the laid concertina wire. Milk shortage is almost epidemic on curfew days. The frequent spells of such restrictions have reduced the soul of Srinagar city, Shar-e-Khas into a haunted place. Fear and melancholy are visible in the air of Srinagar city as the government deploys additional troops to deal with unforeseen violence and protests. In the war rooms of police and security forces there have been imaginary protests and violence in downtown Srinagar and their response had been uniform and novel. Impose curfew if the situation demands, downlink internet services for restoration of calm.
Srinagar city is witnessing intermittent spells of curfew restrictions in the past few months and it has impacted life in general and business in particular. This was one of the reasons that recently traders of Shar-e-Khas decided to keep their business establishments open on Sundays to compensate their losses by frequent restrictions.
Every separatist call in Srinagar is answered by imposition of restrictions in five or seven police stations depending on the threat perception being forwarded by police. While everyone batted for continuation of Amarnath Yatra for being a pure religious pilgrimage, there has not been even a murmur about the continuous closure of Jamia Masjid from the past five Fridays. Earlier also over a dozen Fridays in this summer have gone without any Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid Srinagar. Even if some people consider Kashmir a colony, the residents of this colony have right to go for prayers. The authorities in Srinagar cannot hide behind the alibi of precautionary measure to avoid violence. They have decided to keep Srinagar under the barrel of gun and start doing such activities which will bring Srinagar city to boil. It needs a little explanation. Recently dozens of parents from downtown told media that their wards continue to be under the detention of police in the alleged lynching of a police officer in Jamia Masjid Srinagar. Apart from these detentions police in the past few weeks have been summoning many youth to different police stations in their search to look for the real culprits in the lynching case. Interestingly police has recently claimed after killing a young boy of Pandan area of downtown that he was responsible for killing DSP Ayub Pandit. If they have killed the culprit as they claim why 20 youth are being prosecuted in the same case? Why other dozens of youth are still being questioned if police has reached the conclusion that 20 youth detained by them are responsible for the lynching. Then what about the boy who was killed in the encounter and was declared as the main culprit in the lynching case. The free hand to police to deal with the situation has left many such questions unanswered. They are instilling fear in the youth by constantly going for raids in different localities of Srinagar, in spite of the fact that there has been no violent protests in the recent past.
Such is the impact of hounding of police on the parents that a group of parents from Maisuma locality appealed to the chief minister in the local press to intervene as some new SHO of Maisuma police station has forced many boys to go underground or to live with their relatives as he is going for raids. The parents of Maisuma have said in the appeal that their locality has remained peaceful in the past few months and the attitude of police was forcing the boys to go underground.
Who is trying to push Srinagar to regression, economic depression and to violence? The attitude of police is certainly not helping to salvage the situation. Srinagar city is reeling under the huge impact of death and destruction in the past 27 years. The life in Srinagar city is full of tragedies and pathos. It is completely unwise on the part of authorities to create the conditions for violence and for youth to look for some space to give vent to their deep rooted anger.
Srinagar city is hollow from inside as the tragedies have punched out life from its inner core. Although the government has recently decided to make plans on the paper to make it a smart city the fact remains that downtown Srinagar which is the soul of Srinagar looks like a haunted place. Frequent spells of curfews and restrictions are only adding to its depressions as the economic opportunities for the residents of Shar-e-Kahs have shrinked to great extent. Already hundreds of families which were generating their livelihood being artisans are facing virtual starvation by government bans and now the taxes on shawls etc.
In this atmosphere of economic depression, the present political dispensation is only adding to the pent up frustrations of the people by trying to push this historical and heritage city to regression and violence. In this summer of 2017, so far people of Srinagar city have shown enough maturity and patience not to fall in the trap being created around them. This is high time the present government should re-look at their policy of frequent curfews and random raids to keep Srinagar peaceful. This continuous myopic repressive policy is bound to create conditions in Srinagar city for violence and the attitude of police and security forces needs to be tackled in order to provide some space for the youth of Srinagar to have their life an live their life the way they want.
The author teaches at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir