Would return to real time normalcy elude Kashmiris for long?
By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Aug 18 (IANS) Moving with extreme caution and taking decision based on daily assessment of the ground situation, authorities on Sunday relaxed curbs in more areas of the Kashmir Valley.
After many days vehicular traffic moved in the Civil Lines areas of the city, including in city centre Lal Chowk that wore a deserted look for the last 13 days.
Although very few shops opened in Lal Chowk at the adjoining Residency Road area, shops opened normally in Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Chanpora, Bemina among other areas.
Shoppers engaged in buying to replenish their stocks including medicines, even as fresh fruits and vegetables remained in high demand.
Petrol pumps were seen operating normally, as no queues were seen anywhere outside the stations.
Fifty per cent of landline phones have been restored in the valley, and more exchanges were to become operational in the coming days, Rohit Kansal, spokesperson of the state government said.
There has still been no official word on the restoration of mobile phone connectivity and Internet facilities in Kashmir so far, those were suspended on August 5.
For the first time since curfew-like situation was imposed in the old city area here on August 5, when abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution was taken up in Parliament, authorities decided to partially relax curbs in these areas on Sunday.
"Except for a few stray incidents of violence in the old city area of Srinagar, north Kashmir's Sopore town and a few other places in the valley, the overall law and order situation has remained peaceful in the last 24 hours," a senior police officer said.
There was no movement of public transport in Srinagar and other districts of the valley.
In their endeavour to ensure a peaceful return to normalcy authorities have decided to open schools in valley on Monday.
"We have decided to open schools n Srinagar and other areas tomorrow. We are confident that return of children to classrooms is necessary, because their education has suffered heavily in the past 13 day. To make up for their lost times, we will organise extra classes in schools so that students are able to cover their courses on time," an official said.
What needs to be closely watched is whether or not the ambitious decision to open schools would yield the desired result.
Despite the prevailing uncertainty and a sense of indignation among them, a predominant majority of Kashmiris believe that education of children should not suffer at any cost.
"We cannot afford to have generations of uneducated Kashmiris. we have suffered long enough to realise that whatever happens to us, the future of our children must be protected at all cost," said Muzaffar Ahmed, a parent belonging to uptown Srinagar city.
During the bloody agitation of 2008, 2010, and 2016, life remained paralysed for months without end as dozens of protesting civilians lost their lives in clashes with security forces.
The fact that the historical decision taken by the Government of India to bring the constitutional relationship of Jammu and Kashmir at par with the other states has so far passed off without any loss of life.
This has encouraged authorities that life can return to normal much earlier than otherwise expected.
"A comparison between the handling of the present law and order situation with that of the 2008, 2010, and 2016 somehow indicates that those agitations were not handled with such firmness and people-friendly approach, a top police officer said.
Whether or not the confidence exuded by the authorities actually translates itself to real time return to normalcy have to be closely watched.
Yet there is no doubt that fears expressed by mainstream politicians and threat of upheaval by the separatists have both proved unfounded.