It’s 11 pm. Once a hotbed of militancy and dotted with bunkers from all sides, Srinagar’s Bohri Kadal area is well litup and teeming with groups of young and old to savour a kulfi (ice-cream) post-tarawih (Ramzan evening prayers) these days.
As a positive spin off, Ramzan, an Islamic month of fasting where people stop eating from dawn to dusk, revived nightlife in the Valley after 25 years of militancy that saw normal life coming to a grinding halt before the sunset.
“I remember the Bohri Kadal chowk was surrounded by halfa-dozen bunkers, almost every lane was sealed, as militants were literally ruling this area. The sunset would mean start of grenade attacks. With bunkers gone a few years ago, nightlife is picking up again like the pre90s,” said Muhammad Sultan (65), a kulfi seller.
Around 44 bunkers, dotting Srinagar’s residential areas and the city squares, were removed by the Omar government since 2010, paving way for the city residents to step out after the dusk. “The removal of bunkers has instilled confidence among people to roam freely without being stopped for frisking or for identification parades,” said Sultan.
The newly-instilled confidence reflects in the fact that, for the first time, restaurants have started offering iftar (meals taken by fasting Muslims at the sunset) menus.
“We were pleasantly shocked to see the response of people during Ramzan for our iftar menu, which is based on Middle-East pattern. I am happy to see that iftar parties are trending again,” said Sheikh Feroz, who runs 7 C’s Café and Fine Dine at Srinagar Sangarmaal City Center Plaza, which only opens for iftar and remains closed for the day.
For iftar, the restaurants have advance bookings. Couples, families, corporate offices, friends and officials are seen sitting just before the sunset for iftar.
Even separatists favour return of nightlife during Ramzan. “During Ramzan, people fast for the whole day and prefer to move around after evening prayers. Shopkeepers should keep shops open till sehri (predawn meals) for people to shop and have food at ease. Ramzan should spike businesses here,” said moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also head priest of the Valley and leads prayers at Srinagar’s grand mosque Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta.