August 2000 News

Fear of gun returns to haunt Kashmiris

9 August 2000
The Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

Srinagar: ''WOH FAIL ho gaya'', says Nazir into his walkie talkie set even as he shouts instructions to his colleagues about visitors entering the main building. Nazir regrets the failure of peace talks. He is standing near the outer gate of the Civil Secretariat. There is no change in his routine but he cannot hide his tension. It would be the same old story for him as it was a fortnight ago, before the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen announced a unilateral ceasefire. The ceasefire had given him a chance to relax, albeit for a short time. The secretariat had been the target of rifle grenades, three times in less than six weeks of its reopening in the summer capital in May. ''I thought this was the end of it. But it is not'', Nazir says, his voice reflecting dismay. He does not blame anyone for what had happened but all the same, is disappointed. Inside the secretariat, officers discussed the failure of talks with their colleagues. They suddenly stop the conversation as peons enter with tea. The fear of being overheard saying something unpalatable about the militants has gripped them once again. ''This was a ceasefire that lasted for 16 days. Had it been for three months, it would have been a revolution'', commented a senior Kashmiri Muslim officer. On the streets, tense security personnel are back in position with guns in their hands, shouting out of the net. ''There is something in the air which tells me to stay inside the bunker and not in the open,'' says Ram Avatar, a BSF jawan manning a bunker. ''You should also be careful'', he advised me. Vehicles were plying as usual - only the commuters wore an expression of despair and travelled in absolute silence. There is gut-feeling among all residents that something is going to wrong very soon. ''This is a silent mourning for the casualty of peace'', commented Shahid, a shopkeeper, who plans to shut his shop before the sunset and go home. Entire Kashmir feels that a big chance to let peace finally rule the Valley has been lost. But at the same time, they remain hopeful about such chances in future. The people, however, refuse to blame anyone, as it''s once again a dangerous proposition to do so.


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