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Angst in Kashmir is 'different' this time, say Kashmiris

They have seen many bouts of "revolution" earlier, but this time it is different, say Kashmiris caught in the growing spiral of violence and protests that have engulfed the valley for the past nearly two months and seen scores dead in firing by security forces.

india Updated: Aug 03, 2010 19:56 IST

They have seen many bouts of "revolution" earlier, but this time it is different, say Kashmiris caught in the growing spiral of violence and protests that have engulfed the valley for the past nearly two months and seen scores dead in firing by security forces.

On the streets and even in households, the atmosphere is of mourning and mounting anger. The daily dance of death since July 11 has crossed 40, with 26 killed since Friday, including four in firing on Tuesday till the time of writing.

Abdul Rashid Khan, 65, a carpenter, has in his life seen many seen spells of "revolution which fizzle out after sometime".

"But I am sure this time, the things have taken a different turn. Everybody is ready to sacrifice whatever one can but the rule of tyranny has to end, now or never," Khan said.

It doesn't matter to Khan that he and his wife are almost starving due to the lack of food with daily shutdowns and curfews.

Khan, whose daily earning is a meagre Rs 300, and his wife live alone in a modest house on the outskirts of Srinagar in Anchaar, a semi-rural area named after a lake. Their only son, Bashir Ahmed, is in Bangalore working for a private company.

"Today was the third day in a row when our milkman didn't come to deliver milk. It has been many days since the baker who lives close to our home didn't open his shop. All the stocked food grain has been consumed and we are left with nothing and have been starving since last night," Khan told IANS on phone.

Their tale of suffering is not uncommon now in the trouble-torn valley.

Engulfed in a vicious cycle of violence - deaths, that fuel protests, then more deaths -the Muslim-majority valley has been on the boil for almost two months now since security forces killed a 17-year-old schoolboy while they were chasing a mob protesting against human rights violation June 11.

Daily sufferings don't bother many like Khan because two generations of Kashmiri Muslims have been witness to the bloody 20-year-old separatist war that has left some 70,000 people dead since 1989.

"I don't think there is anything new in it (current situation). We are suffering and are ready to suffer more if it brings an end to the suffering Kashmiri Muslims have been encountering since generations," Khan said, reflecting the feeling of "it is now or never" that has swept people of the state.

Many share his view.

Abdul Majeed Kapra, 45, had three months ago taken a loan from a bank to buy himself an auto-rickshaw for a livelihood. But like many others the unrest has left him with no option but to stay home.

"I am with the freedom movement," said Kapra, but appeared rather worried for his three children, aged, 10, 8 and 3.

"I am not complaining as such. Everybody is suffering but I only wonder if we can sustain it when we cannot feed our own children," Kapra told IANS.

The unending civilian killings has upped the anti-India feeling in the valley, made worse by the state government's failure to manage the crisis.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been suggesting that the turmoil is a manifestation of the unsettled political future of Jammu and Kashmir - a state divided between India and Pakistan. Both rule it in parts but claim it in full.

Abdullah, who is facing sharp criticism for his apparent lack of political acumen, says a political package - meaning renegotiation on India's relationship with Kashmir - can only solve the problem.

But on the streets, Abdullah is a leader who matters little though he was elected to power in the last assembly polls that saw an unprecedented 60 per cent voting.

"We have got nothing to do with Omar Abdullah. His job is to give orders to kill and he is doing that. Let's see how far he will go," said Shafat Mujtaba, an 18-year-old student protester.

In the last 53 days of curfew and shutdowns, schools and colleges were opened for just a day, shops and businesses were opened for a few days - meaning the entire season has gone waste.