Life in curfew-hit Srinagar: Petrol in black, stores open half-shutter at night
As curfew stretched on for a third day on Monday, indefinitely suspending civic life, Srinagar almost resembled a ghost town.
Grocery stores, vegetable shops, petrol pumps and other business establishments remained shuttered, even as the death toll from protests went up by one more; a youth died on Sunday from injuries sustained in the police fire.
Security forces were deployed across the city to curtail any simmering outbreak of a protest, with an additional 800 officers of the Central Reserve Police Force being rushed to the Valley, official sources said.
In comparison with semi-urban locations, Srinagar has been lesser affected by the killing of Burhan Wani, the star commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, after which violent protests broke out.
Nevertheless, streets of Srinagar remained completely devoid of human presence and activity, even at the commercial centre of Lal Chowk. Tourist hot-spots such as Dal Lake and Boulevard Road also remained deserted.
Some grocery stores had opened up at night, at around 8 pm, to let residents stock up on reserves. Many kept their shutters half drawn to shut down quickly in case police came by or a protest broke out.
“We are opening late evenings, but the fact is that stocks are running out. You can see some of the shelves empty. The roads are closed and stock isn’t coming in. Moreover, I am accepting only cash since internet is down and card-machines are not working,” said one proprietor of a departmental store in Jawaharnagar area.
Though fruit and vegetable vendors opened their kiosks on the roads, they hardly had any customers in the mornings due to the curfew.
“I’m importing some stuff via small auto-rickshaws. People need vegetables, fruits. Otherwise how will households runs?” a vegetable shop owner said.
A journalist in the city, Aaqib Javeed also spoke about the situation on social media.
“Day 3: Due to relentless curfew and shutdown, crises situation is emerging from the old city areas of Srinagar... There is shortage of essential items including milk, vegetables, baby food and medicines which has severely hit the residents... Despite that, it is heartening to see many localities have formed committees and started offering langaar to the people at SMHS hospital,” he posted on Facebook.
Petrol stations remained closed though, and residents with vehicles have been scrounging around for fuel. On Sunday, serpentine queues had formed outside stations, with people hoping to fill up their gas tanks, but no employee showed up.
However, the black market flourished on the side, selling about 600-700 mililitres of petrol at Rs 100-150.
At one such small shop on the Barbarshah road in Srinagar, a few young men were gathered with their bikes. The pleased looks on their face indicate they managed to get their fill of petrol.
“There are many in the city who are searching for a black petrol market, some of whom are fleecing money. Only God knows when the situation will improve (or) curfew will be lifted,” one of them said.