In Srinagar, 'No Curfew' But Several Restrictions on Movement, Meetings

While several leaders of BJP assembled at party headquarters to celebrate the Article 370 move, leaders of other parties were not allowed to meet.

Srinagar: A middle-aged man pleaded with a policeman at a road junction in a Srinagar neighbourhood. “See, there is a patient inside the vehicle. We have to reach the hospital,” the man said, helplessly.

“Don’t you know Srinagar is under curfew today?” the young policeman, baton in hand, shouted back. “Go home, everything is shut.”

On August 5, roads remain blocked with concertina wire and not a single vehicle is being allowed to pass. Among vehicles and two-wheelers, stuck in the traffic jams are ambulances. Police personnel have refused to listen to the pleas of people, many of them desperate to reach the hospital or their workplaces.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

“Do they want the patient to die? Can’t they see his condition?” the man said, as others stuck there raised alarm. The policeman was, however, unmoved. His seniors and another group of policemen watched from a little distance ahead. “We have instructions, there is a curfew; nobody will be allowed beyond this,” the policeman said.

Also read: J&K: Concertina Wires Reappear, Sudden Curfew Delays Emergency Vehicles, Doctors

It was only after media persons arrived at the spot and started filming that police lifted the barricade on one side of the road and allowed the vehicles to move.

Curfew ‘lifted’ but restrictions tightened   

On August 3, the Srinagar administration had announced a curfew for August 4 and 5, “fearing protests and violence.” Late on Tuesday night, the administration suddenly said the curfew has been lifted. However, Srinagar and other parts of the Valley woke up to severe restrictions today, the first anniversary of the reading down of Article 370.

Security personnel stand guard on a street during restrictions imposed in the wake of the first anniversary of Article 370 abrogation, in Srinagar, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: PTI

In several localities across the city, police vehicles fitted with public address systems have been announcing strict restrictions to “prevent further spread of coronavirus,” early morning onwards. The announcements came with a warning against the assembly of four or more persons.

Amid heavy deployment of police and paramilitary CRPF, Srinagar wore a deserted look, with shops and business establishments shut.

Also read: One Year On, it is Clear India is Occupied By Kashmir

“The city looks like a ghost town. We were already facing a double lockdown. These curfew-like restrictions since August 4 now makes it a triple lockdown,” said Muzamil, who lives in Dalgate and runs his chemist shop on Srinagar Airport Road.

Muzamil, who wanted to be identified by his first name only, said he walked all the way from his home this morning to his shop, some five kilometres, as police did not permit him to travel in his car.

“Sometimes they say it is a ‘corona lockdown’ and at times they describe it as a ‘curfew’. The reality is that we’re under a siege for a year now,” said Muzamil. “It is only growing brutal.”

He was referring to the clampdown and communication blockade that was imposed across Kashmir on this day last year, hours before the Centre struck down Article 370 and bifurcated the state of J&K into two Union Territories. As the lockdown was eased towards the beginning of this year, Kashmir found itself in the grip of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Many people took to social media platforms to recall how more than seven million people of the Valley were put under the siege on this day last year while the government of India unilaterally altered the “unique” constitutional status of J&K.

A woman looks out from her window in Srinagar in this file image. Photo: Reuters

“TV screens turned black. Cell phones stopped talking. Telephones left dead. Relations divided, disconnected. Friends separated. Lanes woven with razor wires. A bated breath. A fat man announced fate of 13 million people. August 5, 2019. As if, yesterday. No 365 days in between,” wrote journalist Peerzada Ashiq.

BJP celebrates, others not allowed to meet

While the Valley was reeling under restrictions, several leaders of BJP assembled at party headquarters in Srinagar to celebrate the first anniversary of the abrogation of J&K’s special status.

“It is time to celebrate abrogation of the Article as the move has led to several positive changes in J&K in the past one year,” the party spokesperson, Altaf Thakur said.

“The incidences of stone pelting have gone down in the Valley. Today, nobody talks about separatism as people have finally realised development and peace can only lead to a prosperous Kashmir,” said Thakur.

As the party leaders assembled at Jawahar Nagar office, leaders of opposition parties said they were disallowed to meet at the residence of National Conference President, Farooq Abdullah to discuss Kashmir situation.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to call out the “hypocrisy” of BJP. “BJP displaying its hypocrisy. They can gather & celebrate. The rest of us can’t even meet to discuss what’s happening in J&K,” tweeted Omar.

Referring to the meeting, Omar, who is vice-president of National Conference, said it was not allowed. “The BJP gets to announce a 15-day celebration to mark 5th Aug & a handful of us aren’t allowed to meet in my father’s lawn. So much for BJP national leaders wondering why there is no political activity,” he said.

Abdullah had invited leaders from different parties including Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (PC) for the meeting. Political parties have finally begun to speak on Kashmir and Article 370, after a year of silence and many of their leaders’ incarceration.

“We had decided to send our representative to the meeting since Sajad sahab (Sajad Lone) has been barred from moving out until August 5 passes. But the authorities didn’t allow the meeting to take place,” said PC spokesperson Adnan Ashraf.

Also read: Sajad Lone ‘Released’ After a Year’s Detention, ‘Asked Not to Leave Home Till Aug 5,’ Say Reports

The parties were barred from participating in the meeting after they had on Tuesday condemned the decisions which were taken by the Centre on August 5 last year to effect change in constitutional relations between J&K and Union of India.

“August 5 was the darkest patch in the history of J&K which marked the forcible and unconstitutional infringement of the rights of its people. The decisions taken were undemocratic onslaught on rights and honor of people of J&K,” said National Conference spokesperson, Imran Nabi.

In a statement, the PC described August 5 as a “negative milestone.” “This will be remembered as a sad day, a day of disempowerment a day of the attack on our identity. It was a spiteful move and the most unfortunate aspect of it was that an unsuspecting population across the country fed on a diet of hatred and intoxicated on jingoism actually endorsed this spiteful move against people of Kashmir,” said Ashraf.