Normal? Kashmiris Have to Drive Around in Search of Biscuits, Fuel
On 17 September, I took a flight back home to Srinagar only to realise that home was never going to be the same.
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Forty days after Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the special status of Jammu and Kashmir effectively revoked, I decided to go back home to Srinagar from Delhi.
Ever since the announcement on 5 August, my world had turned upside down. I made frantic calls to my family but never got through. I asked other friends who had families back in Kashmir for help, but they too were in the same situation as I was. Like any other Kashmiri, I was anxious and confused, desperate to hear my parents’ voice. I finally met them when they came to visit me. Yet, I kept wondering what home must be like at the moment.
On 17 September, I took a flight from Delhi to Srinagar. That’s when it hit me – home was never going to be the same. There were only private vehicles running on the roads. There was no public transport, nothing at all. Roads that used to be busy were almost deserted.
As has been reported widely, communication was severed.
A friend showed me the ‘No Network’ sign on his phone, adding that it had been like this for over a month now.
“There is no network since the last 40 days. It only says ‘emergency calls’. I’ve put two sim cards – BSNL and Airtel, both postpaid. Both have no network. Even if I have to access the net, there is no service, so how can I? It says ‘no Internet’ every time I try to open a website.”
I met another angry parent at the Tourism Reception Center in Lal Bagh. He’d traveled 12 km to book a ticket for his son, something he could have done in the luxury of his home, from his home. In today’s Kashmir, however, that is not possible.
“To buy a ticket for my child, I’ve had to travel 12 km. If the situation was normal, I would have booked it from an STD right in front of my house like in the past. Moreover, I could’ve just used my phone to book it. If everything is normal here then what is all this?”
In Boulevard Road, the shutters of my favourite cafes were pulled down. At Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar, shops were closed for days at an end. This was a spot where shoppers thronged every day.
That’s not all. The worst, probably, is the lack of access to everyday necessities like groceries, medicines, and even petrol.
The day after I landed, we went to Sonwar. Petrol pumps were shut, and petrol was being sold in bottles. We went to at least three petrol pumps and all of them refused to sell to us. I had to knock on the shutters of a nearby shop to buy biscuits. This was life in Kashmir.
There was a clampdown on communication, denial of access to everyday necessities, fear in the mind of every Kashmiri. If all these things can be considered normal then yes, definitely, Kashmir is normal.
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Topics: Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir Srinagar
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