Life continues as usual in Lal Chowk
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
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
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.
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