Kashmiris getting used to living on razor's edge?
7 October 2006
Indo-Asian News Service
Srinagar: Life is almost back to normal in this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, as if nothing had happened. Amid the bustle, cursory glances are thrown at the shattered glass panes and bullet marks in Standard Hotel, the scene of a bloody firefight between militants and security forces that claimed 10 lives and left 16 wounded just two days ago.The panic that enveloped the area during the 22-hour- long gun battle between separatist guerrillas hiding inside the hotel and the security forces at the Budshah Chowk city centre seems to have disappeared.Have Kashmiris become impervious to violence and begun to take it in their stride?'Is it total madness, or an acceptance of violence as the unavoidable fate?' asks Muhammad Saleem, a 45-year-old engineer who came to drop his son at a school in Budhshah Chowk area a day after the encounter.Shops are humming with activity and schools and colleges functioning as if nothing 'serious' had happened. Traffic is plying as usual through the area, though passers-by occasionally look at the hotel - at its half-burnt windows and doors and the hundreds of bullet marks on the concrete structure that bear evidence to the firefight that had paralysed life not only in the area, but the entire city and hogged national headlines.In south Kashmir's Pulwama district, Yusuf Dar, younger brother of constable Bashir Ahmad, who was among the seven security men killed, tried to end his life by consuming poison when he heard of his brother's death. Yusuf could not attend the burial of his brother as he is now battling for life in hospital.As officials of Jammu and Kashmir Police, led by Director General Gopal Sharma, reversed arms at the Srinagar police control to bid farewell to the security men killed in the shootout, the bodies of the two guerrillas who had carried out the suicide attack were buried amid tight security in the Nowgam suburbs of the city.Several people gathered at the burial ground shouted pro-independence slogans and even stoned the police party supervising the guerrillas' burial.'The fact that militant attacks are occurring in the heart of the city in highly secured places, serves to prove that political problems can only be solved politically. Violence begets violence and finally leaves everybody mourning,' comments Naseer Ahmad, a local journalist.Ironically, Kashmir appears to have reached a stage in its nearly two-decades-long violence with people having been so severely exposed to violence that living on the razor's edge has become second nature.'Who knows what happens here tomorrow or just the other moment. I am right now talking with you, but can anyone guarantee we won't be caught in a grenade explosion or a suicide attack?' says a resigned Mehrajuddin, who sells fruit in the Lal Chowk area of the city.