For the first time since militancy broke out in the Kashmir Valley in 1989, the state government is working on an ambitious project of reviving nightlife for the Islamic month of Ramzan, wherein people fast from dawn to dusk.
The bait is to draw crowd post-sundown, in an otherwise traditional and conservative society, for mouth-watering delicacies offered by the country's best non-vegetarian brands.
From 'Karim', 'Khan Chacha' and 'Qureshis' of Delhi to 'Paradise Biryani' from Hyderabad to 'Tunday Kebab' and 'Shehzad Kathi Kebab' from Lucknow --- the government has roped in best eating joints to make people break the fast outside their homes. The topping will be 'Delhi bhalla papdi chat.'
The major first-ever post-sundown food festival was set up at Kashmir Haat, where 10 food outlets will serve iftaar, an array of food items served to break the fast after the sundown.
"Special traditional Kashmiri food stalls would also be set up inside the Kashmir Haat for iftaar during Ramzan," said state finance and culture minister Haseeb Drabu.
The event, organised by the state culture ministry and collaborated by other departments like Srinagar Municipal Corporation, will also set up nightlong food joints outside major shrines like Dastgeer Sahib, Khankah and Hazratbal, which remain abuzz with devotees till late in the night during Ramzan.
It will be the first time that once violence-marred parts of the old city, where most of these shrines are located, will get to taste the nightlife, which has otherwise remained dull and lifeless for the past 26 years.
The open eateries will be an event for the new generation that has been raised in an atmosphere where they were asked to return home before sunset to avoid frequent security check points.
"It will be a new thing for us to eat outside during Ramzan. I have never been out till late in the evening ever in my life. So I am excited to visit Kashmir Haat and taste kebabs etc," said Nayeem Ahmad, a 25-year-old college-goer.
The government is planning to provide night bus service to ferry devotees too.
However, many fear the event may not be able to break the entrenched culture of holding iftar parties at home.
"Culturally, people in Kashmir prefer to have food at home with family and friends. Home-made delicacies remain a preferred way of breaking the fast in Ramzan. It is an ambitious project and if it succeeds may go a long way in reviving the nightlife in the Valley," said Ahmad Nasser, an avid blogger and columnist.
In the past, moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq advocated reviving nightlife in the Valley during Ramzan to revive the economy.
"During Ramzan, people fast for the whole day and prefer to move around after evening prayers. Shopkeepers should keep shops open till sehri (pre-dawn meals) for people to shop and have food at ease. Ramzan should spike businesses here," believes the Mirwaiz, also the head priest of the Valley who leads prayers at Srinagar's grand mosque Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta.