After a week of shutdown, Valley experiences day-long normalcy24 August 2010
The Daily Excelsior
SRINAGAR: Kashmir valley witnessed a rare 'full normal' day today after a week of violent protests as hustle and bustle returned to the marketplaces, private and Government offices and educational institutions. Normalcy was witnessed across the Valley after the lifting of curfew by the authorities while the hard line faction of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani had also 'asked' the people not to observe protests and shutdown for a day. The marketplaces of the Valley wore a festive look as people were seen buying various items especially the household ones even as it has become a routine seeing people stocking up essentials on a day when the hard-line Hurriyat faction suspends its protest programme. Heavy rush was also seen at all the Governmental and private offices especially the banks and ATMs. The billing counters saw serpentine queues as some people had to wait for more than half hour for their turn. 'I waited for 45 minutes to pay the bills as the queue was too long. Moreover, the staff at the counter also went out to pray in between that put us to inconvenience,' said a customer, Nasir Ahmad, after paying a bill at the BSNL exchange counter here in the city. Chaos reigned at all the roads because of heavy traffic jams that saw vehicles moving at snails pace during the morning hours at various places especially Ram Bagh, Jehangir Chowk, Zero Bridge and Dal Gate that lead to the heart of the summer capital, Lal Chowk. Educational institutions especially schools whose functioning has been hit hard due to the series of shutdowns and protests also reopened perhaps for one day only as shutdowns are expected to resume from tomorrow. Enthusiasm on the faces of the school children in uniforms was palpable as visits to their respective institutions have become rare. 'Earlier, we used to wait for holidays but now we eagerly look forward to a day at school,' said a student of the Tyndale Biscoe School, Hazim Wani with a smile on his face. The shopkeepers of old city areas besides Lal Chowk, Maisuma and adjoining places, who get affected the most during shutdowns and curfews, breathed a sigh of relief today as no one forced them to shut shops as seen on other 'normal' days when the Hurriyat had suspended its protest programme. 'Last Tuesday, we had to shut our shops in the afternoon after protests here even though the Hurriyat had asked people not to protest that day,' said a shopkeeper of Maisuma. Incidentally, on Friday last week when the Hurriyat had asked people not to stage protests, protestors had clashed with security forces at various places while a civilian had also been killed at Bijbehara in Anantnag district. Similarly on Tuesday last week, 20 persons had been injured in protests despite 'relaxation' in the Hurriyat calendar. A shopkeeper of Abi Guzar vented out his frustration at both the Government as well as the Hurriyat for the seemingly never ending shutdowns and curfews. 'The Hurriyat calendar has taken the whole Valley hostage and the Government is completely clueless….it has got no idea how to deal with it….one day of normalcy and then back to square one….this has to end,' he said. Meanwhile, the Hurriyat issued a fresh protest calendar of 11 days till September 4 next month. As per the calendar, people have been asked to stage 'peaceful protests' of various kinds that include dharnas, offering of Friday prayers in white clothes, raising of slogans in mosques and protests on the internet. Geelani is scheduled to address a gathering at the TRC ground on August 28 while the Hurriyat has asked the people not to observe shutdowns on August 27, September 1 and 3. The Hurriyat calendar has also given 'relaxations' of two hours during shutdowns form 5 PM to 7 PM on August 29, 30 and 31 respectively. The Hurriyat chairman also chaired a party meeting where he condemned the series of recent killings allegedly by the security forces in the Valley and urged the people to observe the Eid-ul-Fitr festival in an austere manner. Geelani further urged the people not to prepare bakeries, slaughter more than necessary animals and burst firecrackers on Eid. He appealed to the private school authorities to grant 50 per cent fee concession and waive off transport fee.