Views from Srinagar
Malik Zahra Khalid
THE norm has once again changed in Kashmir, with weekend life being pushed aside by the new calendar issued by Hurriyat leadership. The most severe part of the winter, Chillai Kalan, is about to knock doors in Kashmir. But let us begin with the weekend extravaganza, the norm before the present one.
With strikes relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays earlier, the weekends brought life to normal with people adapting and accepting the writ of the Hurriyat leadership. In the winter days of December any observer in Kashmir would find a robust life when there are no restrictions placed on movement. When weekends used to be the only “normal” days or days when there were no strike calls, life began quite early from dawn and continued till dusk. Deserted roads were filled with life, markets remained abuzz and with youngsters on all the streets of Srinagar it seemed life had burst out on the streets of Kashmir. An unusual scene was children running for their schools on Sundays, not a very good day for school otherwise.
To make most of the normal days of work under strict calendar, a Kashmiri has learnt the tricks of the trade. People living near the busy streets are woken up during the wee hours by the hustle and bustle as people start their day early. Apart from weekend normal, people seem to have also adopted the habit of making it large towards evening. It is still quite a scene to find how lifeless streets of Lal Chowk suddenly become alive at 4 pm. One did watch impatient shopkeepers making desperate rounds to their shops from 3 pm looking with an eye on their watches to lift the shutters. Many times the luring rush of customers tempted them to open beforehand.
Almost all the sections of the society have learnt to make most of relaxation period. Now the public transporter service providers have also picked up the knack of conducting business in suitable ways. Educational institutions are open and most of the private schools have opened their ‘shops’, and have made the parents to pay full fee despite their initial protests. Kashmir Bar Association which is supportive of the leadership had tried to get a special injection in the protest calendar for the lawyers to appear in hartal days as the weekend relaxation did not provide them any room because Saturdays and Sundays are off in courts.
Long queues at the ration ghats to draw subsidized rice, almost all the households have gone with their electric bills to get LED bulbs at the subsidized rated from the PDD department is yet another aspect of our character as we are in no mood to leave any government subsidy, at the same time raise voice against the same government here. Such dichotomy in our character forces anyone to think twice before supporting or joining the protests. In order to extract maximum benefits we also remind those who provide us these incentives that worst is yet to come.
All through the unrest our romance for constructions – legal or illegal, has not waned. A LAWDA statement in one newspaper took me by surprise when they said that they have demolished about 400 structures in the unrest in and around Dal Lake. Dal dwellers have as usual blamed LAWDA for protecting rich and demolishing poor and have pointed to new constructions in the green belt including around famous Nishat garden where huge bungalows have come up recently. Coming back to construction boom, the weekend relaxations have increased this boom in city and rural areas as thousands of new constructions are coming up even in the month of December. The new norms of life are settling down in our minds and every section of society has learned it fast how to adapt to the changing circumstances.
We have shown that we can live the normal lives, sustain our business enterprises, do our routine works and also stick to the separatist calendars by showing solidarity with the rest for the “azadi” campaign.
Thank God that harisa shops open at wee hours, or we will have devised some novel method having the winter delicacy without violating the calendar. We have desperately shown to the government that we are their obedient employees, joined our duties, completed our duty slips on time and also raised funds for pellet victims to remain attached with the uprising.
This is not about the government employees alone; all the sections of our society have adopted the same norms. Are we intelligent enough to have our way in the worst circumstances or we are hypocrites who want to keep all sides happy without bothering for any in real sense? Has the continuous spells of violence and decades of uncertainty brought such elements of adaptability in our genes or has the historical baggage of subjugation starting from Mughals and Sikhs, Afghans and Dogra rules, made us so hard that we mean nothing serious for any campaign? The current unrest which we have sustained successfully so far has shown that normal life and protests can go together with ease here. This happens only in Kashmir.