Alert security forces’ shouts and yells chased Srinagar residents who tried to venture out to buy essentials since the break of the dawn on Tuesday. For fifth day today tension ran high across the state.
The main link, SMSing on mobiles, to know well-being of relatives was snapped across the Valley as protests sparked off by the killing of eight protesters spread in lengths and breadths of the state.
“We have been asked to snap the SMS service for indefinite period. But have not snapped call services,” said a BSNL employee, pleading anonymity.
Iron barricades, barbed wires, swinging batons, rows of gun-mounted vehicles and battle-hardened riot-gears donned by security forces turned Srinagar, with population of more than 17 lakh, into a city of ghosts with deserted streets and pin-drop silence. Only security forces’ vehicles and sounds of gunfire to warn gathering mobs would disrupt silence at regular intervals throughout the day.
“I tried to venture out for milk and morning bread but a CRPF jawan raised his baton in the air and shouted at me ‘go back’. I decided to obey the orders,” said Zahoor Ahmad Qureshi, retired engineer from Zaina Kadal, centre of downtown Srinagar, which is spreaded over five sq kilo metre.
At Srinagar’s Khanyar area, as I tried to emerge from a narrow by-lane, I was all of a sudden in front of a huge concentration of troops with fingers on triggers pointing at torsos. Only my newspapers name with Hindustan in it helped me to pass through the tense areas of downtown Srinagar, bastion of separatists.
The reason behind the anger among soldiers was evident on the streets. From Bohri Kadal to Hawal in downtown, from Bemina to Hyderpora in uptown, the streets were strewn with red marks of half-bricks, pointed rocks and black of tear-smoke shell fired in retaliation. While soldiers man the main streets, masked-boys armed with stones man its backyard. The confrontation seems set fire indefinite time. Mosques too have been occupied by protesters to vent pro-freedom songs and address people where to gather and when.
The provocative slogans like “Go India Go” written with charcoal on streets and walls too fuel high tempers of jawans further. The separatists have asked supporters to make anti-India graffiti on street walls.
There were protests by parents at Nowshera for different reason. “Our children were playing cricket in a playground. Police came and cordoned off the ground and picked up all boys,” said a mother.
The ban on the SMSes has already stopped the percolation of news as dozens of news services failed to connect with their customers. It has also affected marriage market.
“I have to cancel my marriage party invitations of more than 700 guests. An SMS to all would have ensured guests are informed but that is not possible now,” said Bilal Ahmad from Eid Gah area, whose daughter is getting married this week.
With curfew-like restriction in place, the vegetable and fruit kiosks and hand-driven carts too are closed. “I live my day by earning in the day selling vegetables. It’s hard to save money for another day. We are in a bind; if we don’t protest against civilian killings then trigger-happy soldier will kill at will. The cycle of deaths has to stop. It can be me next time. Even if I die of hunger I will protest to stop cycle of killing,” said Gaffar Ahmad, a vegetable vendor at Rajouri Kadal.With television and Internet only window to the outside world, people are glued to screens to watch new violence videos on Youtube and latest news on Facebook shared by friends.