It’s been almost 50 days the Kashmir valley is under curfew, the longest ever ongoing spell in the region’s history which is making the already-hardened lives of the Kashmiris unbearable.
The valley sees the first light of the day at 5:15am and by 6:30am law enforcement and paramilitary personnel starts manning every street and lane, especially in the old part of the Srinagar city, the so-called stronghold of insurgents.
All Kashmiris need to finish up every outdoor work within this one hour and 15 minutes of curfew gap, as Indian Express reported
quoting many in old town that their lives depend on what they can make of that time.
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Members of a family watch television in their home in Srinagar as the city remains under curfew following weeks of violence in Kashmir REUTERS[/caption]
Sheikh Majid is among those out at the crack of dawn, in order to find shops open to stock up on milk, groceries, vegetables and other essentials, but the 28-year-old is almost sure he won’t be able to get everything that tops his shopping list.
“These are difficult times. We know we have to bear with it. But it is very painful when your baby needs milk or a change of diaper and you feel helpless,” Majid tells Indian Express.
Kashmir in general and Old City or downtown Srinagar in particular have seen long spells of curfew in the past. The Valley was shut for a month after the Hazratbal siege of 1993. In 2008 and 2010, Kashmir witnessed short spells of curfew quite often. But this time, the curfew has already stretched for a month and half without a break in most parts of Kashmir. In Old City, security forces only withdraw in the night for a couple of hours, till dawn.
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“They (the forces) don’t even let patients go to hospitals,” claims Nazir Ahmad Bhat, also a Srinagar resident, whose 15-year-old son isn’t feeling well. “Before I could tell them we have to go to hospital, they ordered us to go back. When we persisted, they pointed a gun towards us. We returned silently.”
A curfew pass isn’t easy to procure. These are issued by the Srinagar deputy commissioner and generally given only to journalists and those who can get clearance from higher-ups. Even then, the Indian Express says, the passes are often ignored by the wary men in uniform.
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A man stands under the half open shutters of a shop after a night of clashes between protesters and security forces in Srinagar as the city remains under curfew following weeks of violence in Kashmir REUTERS[/caption]
Supplies are allowed from villages aaround during the night, but there are days when police and paramilitary forces close all the entry points and stop milkmen and vegetable sellers.
With houses densely packed in Old Srinagar City, residents have no space for kitchen gardens, leaving them totally dependent on villages for supplies. That makes this area one of the worst affected in Kashmir in terms of shortage of essential commodities.
While Kashmiris are used to stocking essentials, as earlier the Valley would get cut off from the rest of the country for months during winter, that is mostly in the case of rice. “Traditionally, we don’t like eating pulses during summer, so very few people have pulses in store. And vegetables cannot be stored,” says Naseem Ahmad.
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Besides, he adds, “All this happened so quickly that we did not get a chance to store things. We ourselves have enough rice for two months, but there are people who live hand to mouth. For them, life is very difficult.”
Meat is a luxury, with mutton, the most widely eaten, almost completely unavailable, and chicken scarce.
Majid says things have turned even more difficult over the past couple of days after curfew was extended to night-time and following the police crackdown on “volunteers”. “We had volunteers who brought in vegetables, pulses and other essentials every evening. They stored the goods in the local mosque, and sold them on a no-profit, no-loss basis. People would go to the mosque early in the morning and buy the things. But then police asked them to stop it,” he says.
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A horse stands in the middle of an empty street in Srinagar as the city remains under curfew following weeks of violence in Kashmir REUTERS[/caption]
Superintendent of Police (SP), North Srinagar, Sajad Khalid refuses to comment on the charges.
Jammu & Kashmir Minister for Consumer Affairs Choudhary Zulfikar Ali denies there is any shortage. “We have adequate supplies, and we have ensured that these continue unhindered,” he says.
According to the minister, “some problems” have been created by sporadic incidents of people throwing stones at trucks carrying supplies.
However, the minister’s figure of 24,000 trucks bringing essential supplies to the Valley since July 9 makes it around 35% compared to normal days. Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed on July 8 night, triggering the protests.