When night becomes day for Kashmir

It is commerce by night – the milkman knocks at your door at around 4 am, the vegetable seller follows; the bakery is open from 2.30 am till sunrise and petrol pumps from midnight for a few hours.

Srinagar: It is commerce by night – the milkman knocks at your door at around 4 am, the vegetable seller follows; the bakery is open from 2.30 am till sunrise and petrol pumps from midnight for a few hours.

This is how days and days of curfew and violence on the streets of this city and some other urban areas of the Kashmir Valley has changed the life of its citizens. Night has become day.

Life has come to a standstill; yet life has to go on. Thus traders as well as citizens have invented ways of survival out of necessity. Call it ingenuity of Kashmiris.

The Valley depends on import of most essential commodities from the plains. Be it petroleum products, livestock, medicines and even vegetables. Some of these items
are trickling through from Jammu, but distribution is a problem.

The curfew also comes in two varieties -- one imposed by the authorities and one by separatists. Combine the two and the sum total is misery for the people. The sick are unable to see doctors, so the consultation is over telephone. But medicines are hard to get.

In Shivpora, a housing colony across the Badamibagh cantonment here, milkmen begin their rounds after 4 am, waking up residents who gratefully accept milk. "It disturbs our
sleep but what does it matter when our whole life is disturbed," said a resident.

The vegetable vendor follows. Vegetables are in short supply since the local produce is limited. Therefore, people gratefully buy whatever is on offer.

One can spot vehicles on Jammu-Srinagar Highway lined up at petrol pumps well past midnight to fill the tanks for carrying tourists before dawn.

"We open up after midnight as a lot of people especially tourist taxis come for filling petrol and diesel," says a petrol pump owner in Civil Lines area.

The operators send tourists willing to go to Ladakh or Gulmarg during night and the city sleeps after the break of dawn.

"There have been bookings made by tourists in advance and some of them are still sticking to their dates. Therefore, several tour operators like me are using the cover of darkness to make them reach their destinations," a tour operators said.

In downtown Nowhatta, people start pouring on streets after the CRPF and police redeploy at vantage points at around 9 pm. "We eagerly wait for the loud noise (stun grenade used by the CRPF) and after that the grocery stores start opening and people start queueing up for daily items," says Shabir, a resident in this locality.

"Cigarettes are in scarcity and the shopkeepers have started charging extra for every pack," he said.

The days of unrest have taken a toll on the students. While some residents, who are well-off, have sent their children to Jammu and Delhi to attend coaching classes, those belonging to weaker sections are left to fend for themselves.

Again innovation has come in handy here. People consult teachers over phone and wherever possible also take tuition through the Internet.

"I have an exam in September for my MBA and since July there have been no classes. I do not know who is responsible for the present situation but several students like me are
suffering," says Nazima, a resident in downtown, who studies in Kashmir University.

Some schools have started interactive Internet sites for their teachers and students where children are given online classes. Doubts are also cleared by teachers sitting at home.

The state Secretariat, the seat of power, and Government offices elsewhere that deal with the public in various sectors are among the worst-affected, though, for a change, the
administration kept the Secretariat open for the first time during curfew hours.

Attendance was poor but still middle-rung and top officials were present to ensure coordination so that the supply lines were kept open.

Daily meetings were held where the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reviewed the day-to-day situation, sometimes even monitoring hour-to-hour position.

Even the Government supplies meant for distribution to people in curfew-bound areas were sent during the night.


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