Kashmiris Trapped Between Separatists And Authorities4 October 2010
Srinagar: Caught between separatists and authorities, calling for shutdowns and curfews in turn, people in the Kashmir Valley say they are in a no-win situation and see no respite from their daily predicament despite claims that the situation was slowly improving. The unrest that started June 11, claiming 109 lives since, appears endless given the continuing protest and shutdown calendars issued by separatists. And common Kashmiris say there are in a classic Catch 22 situation, balancing what separatists dictate and authorities assert. 'If somebody expects us to defy protest calls and ignore the appeals of the separatists, he-she is sadly mistaken. Can we defy the curfew imposed by the authorities? It is a no win situation for us unless the government and the separatists sit across the table and reach some agreement,' said retired school teacher Abdul Salam. Although the administration in this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital claims educational institutions have started functioning normally after their reopening following a three-month enforced break, the ground realities suggest the contrary. 'I sent my daughter to school for two days last week so she could take her term exams. Since then, she has not attended the school because of the separatist shutdowns and the official curfews in the city,' said Muhammad Sadiq, a resident of the Old City. What is true of educational institutions is also true of businesses, horticulture, handicraft, transport and other spheres of activity here. 'Shops open after a week of shutdown and it is madness to expect that I can earn enough for my family by running the shop for two days in a week,' said Bashir Ahmad, a shopkeeper in an uptown area. Hoteliers, houseboat owners, taxi drivers, travel agents and more importantly, those vendors who feed their families working as daily bread earners have similar stories to narrate. 'I been sell readymade clothes on the road in the city centre Lal Chowk. During the last four months, I have worked for just 10 days,' said Abdul Majid, a pavement seller. Transport operators have similar stories to tell. 'My misfortune started the day I asked my father to sell a piece of land so that I could purchase a Toyota Innova car which I drive as a taxi. I am working at a taxi stand in one of the top hotels, but nobody has used my taxi for the last two months as there are no guests at the hotel. 'In early summer, I did roaring business because of tourist inflow and also later because of the Amaranth Yatra. Since then I have been idle,' said Zahoor Ahmad, a taxi owner here. Despite the huge losses suffered by businesses and the setback to the education of children here, the scenario here appears unchanging. 'We have to ensure that law and order is maintained and nobody is allowed to play with the lives of the youth and public property,' said a police officer justifying curfews and restrictions imposed to thwart separatist protests. The separatists are also unrelenting in their stand. 'If anybody calls off the present protest programme after having public support for the last nearly four months, he would be seen as a betrayer. 'We realise the hardships faced by people and the tremendous sacrifices made by the youth 110 of whom have been martyred so far. But unless our demands are met, we won't be in a position to call off the ongoing programme,' said sources in the hardline separatist Hurriyat group headed by Syed Ali Geelani. The eight-point package announced by union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to end the cycle of violence here has failed to catch the imagination of the separatists. All the separatists, including Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who represent the two ends of the Hurriyat Conference, have rejected the package maintaining it does not address any of their demands.