Life in a curfewed area: ‘It’s a jail with daily parole’

As the offline and online curfew in Kashmir entered 18th day on Tuesday, people are drastically adjusting their daily routine to best suit the situation where living a normal life remains a distant possibility.
Life in a curfewed area: ‘It’s a jail with daily parole’
File Photo

As the offline and online curfew in Kashmir entered 18th day on Tuesday, people are drastically adjusting their daily routine to best suit the situation where living a normal life remains a distant possibility.

As soon as a new day breaks, people find themselves facing the same routine all over again. Some continue to sleep and others race to complete the morning walk before government forces arrive to seal the roads.

"One of the first things to worry in the morning is getting bread and milk, which is followed by requirement of vegetables," says Abdur Rashid of Eidgah locality here. "Right from early morning, we see a lot of people on roads than in their beds. In these times, it is load-carriers that have become the vital supply lines. They arrive with vegetables, fruit, milk and other essentials, thus eliminating half of our worries."

The load-carriers and milkmen are also becoming messengers and postmen of sorts. People either send messages through them or receive the news of wellbeing or request from their distant relatives who happen to reside close to where these milkmen live.

The curfews have also changed the schedule of shopkeepers particularly those selling vegetables. "We hardly sleep. I visit sabzi mandi (fruit mandi) at Parimpora at 1 am to get my supplies. My shop is already bereft of stock and either I have to shut down or sacrifice my sleep," said Abdus Salam, a shopkeeper at Soura locality. "And I am not alone; there is huge rush of people in markets. It seems government's dream of having nightlife in Kashmir has been realized."

The availability of hard cash is also becoming a problem. "I had to visit Nowshera to get cash from an ATM after not a single ATM in my area had any money," said a resident of Gojwara.

The peculiar timing of protests had been to the advantage of people too. As the protests started right on the third day of Eid-ul-Fitr, almost every house had enough stock of bakery and other eatables. The custom of hoarding much more than what people usually eat on Eids sustained them for almost a week and sometimes more.

"Our bakery used to last for more than a month and sometimes we used to discard lot of bread due to non-consumption, but the shutdown ensured we consume every bit of it," says a downtown resident. "This also minimized the bread scarcity to an extent as most of bakers who had employees from far-off villages were stuck in their homes."

As people have literally nothing to do except 'kill time', everybody has a different schedule. Some watch TV, listen to radio and of course read every word of newspapers. Although mobile phones have become useless without functional signal, hope of their "awakening" at any time makes people to occasionally check the equipment.

 "I usually watch television and have to fight with my nephew and nieces to get time for my favourite movie from their Doraemon and Ninja Hattori," says Wasim, a resident of Rajouri Kadal.

One of the biggest class divides that the current clampdown has generated in Kashmir is the 'haves and have nots' of internet. Those who don't have internet are pleading with unknown landline owners to check their mails. Overnight the much-despised BSNL has become highly appealing as the only internet working in Kashmir is its broadband. As a BSNL official predicted that the company will witness a huge rush of landline and postpaid mobile requests from people in near future.

During the day, most of the people eat, sleep and socialize on shopfronts if government forces are not in the vicinity and there are no protests going on. "During days we have nothing to do except hope that we don't have to inhale pepper gas or tear gas. During evenings and early mornings we get a chance to stretch our legs," said a resident of Kawdara. "It is like being in jail with a daily parole."

With mass availability of smartphones, people are also photographing and recording any clash or arrest happening in their area. "Once the communication blockade is withdrawn, lot of video clips would be shared on the social media depicting happenings in these shadow areas," opined a tech-savvy professor.

Besides killings, restrictions and politics, the most common discussion includes marriage cancellation, availability of essentials, cursing collective destiny and new rumours. One of the most important discussions remains availability of rations from CA&PD stores. The already-embattled department receives flak for 'never being able to provide allocated ration.'

As protests happened right at the peak season of marriages, almost every family missed the opportunity to visit ceremony of some of their relatives. The ones whose marriage is round the corner are keeping their fingers crossed. "My cousin's wedding is on coming Saturday, but my uncle is yet to decide whether to postpone it, curtail the festivity or move somewhere out," said Ishfaq of Nowpora. "It is the clash of principles and morality. Should we celebrate during these killings or not, is the question ringing in our heads."

Many have already fled Kashmir even as some politely declined to be part of tourist spot festivity. "Some of my friends had invited me for a Ladakh trip but my conscience didn't allow me to go. These are hard times and I can never forgive myself if I enjoy while my brethren suffer," said a youth from Shalimar.

Meanwhile, the curfews have surprisingly increased the attendance in mosques all over the valley. After Ramadhan, the number of people offering five-time prayer would usually decline but this time the mosque attendance is much higher as everybody is at home with no work.

The curfews have impacted the psychological health of people as they are becoming victims of anger, fear, hopelessness, sadness, insomnia and fatigue—all at a once, which has the potential to throw many into depression. "The problem is lack of any coping mechanism to deal with depression. They can't visit shrines, talk to their near and dear ones and share their troubles with their trusted ones due to communication blockade and restrictions," said a mental health expert. "They can't vent their frustration as even social media is curbed. So this situation is dangerously impacting the population in ways which see now and in ways which can only come to fore once restrictions are removed."

Related Stories

No stories found.