Life continues as usual in Lal Chowk
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 18:31
Lal Chowk: "It is unusually normal here," says an office-goer at the historic Lal Chowk as Srinagar's commercial nerve centre bustles with activity, virtually unaffected by the high drama surrounding the BJP's proposed hoisting of national flag on Wednesday.

Zahid, a Srinagar resident who has an office in Lal Chowk, says he is used to seeing deserted streets in the city ahead of Republic Day and Independence Day in view of heightened security arrangement over the past 20 years after the Valley was hit by militancy.

Shops and other business establishments are open and traffic is plying normally in the city including in Lal Chowk where BJP wants to hoist the national flag tomorrow while the Jammu and Kashmir government is going all out to prevent the opposition party on the grounds that it can create a law and order problem in the Valley.

"It does not look like tomorrow is January 26," says Zahid while walking past the Clock Tower, which perhaps is the only give-away as security forces have been deployed in strength around it to stop BJP activists or JKLF cadres, who have vowed to stop them and unfurl their own flag.

For the first time a police unit has been deployed near the clock tower which is surrounded by three armoured vehicles of police and CRPF and a large posse of policemen.

Apart from security forces who are deployed in the vicinity of the clock tower, a large number of photo and video journalists are camping around the tower that has been witness to many rumblings over the past three years.

A senior police officer said there are no plans to impose curfew in Maisuma locality, which is a stronghold of JKLF chief Yasin Malik and lies in close proximity of Lal Chowk.

Malik, who is a former militant commander, has gone underground and has vowed to go ahead with the proposed march to Lal Chowk.

"There will be no curfew (in Maisuma)," a senior police officer said.

Lal Chowk has seen many historic developments including speeches by first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and then Premier of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.

The clock tower is currently undergoing another round of renovation after it was severely damaged during a separatist rally on Eidul Fitr on September 11 last year.

A group of BJP leaders led by Murli Manohar Joshi and Narender Modi had on Republic Day in 1992 hoisted the national flag there amidst tight security.

Thereafter, security forces took over the tower and constructed a security picket around it, which was removed only in 2007.


First Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011, 18:31

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