Tribune News Service
Srinagar, July 7
The Dal Lake is buzzing with tourists, shikarawalas are back in business, Lal Chowk is swarming with people, the gardens have been thrown open to public, traffic is in full flow and the eating joints are full — life appears to be back on the rails in Srinagar after nearly two years.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, brought life to a grinding halt in the state as a clampdown was imposed in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. In a double whammy for the people, the Covid-19 pandemic followed and another year went by in lockdown. “We had forgotten what regular days felt like — of going out in my shikara, of earning money, of having enough to eat. With the situation easing and everything opening up, it feels great to be out again,” says Mushtaq, a vegetable vendor, who rows in the lake all day to sell his produce.
A sense of normalcy and routine seems to be returning gradually and the full-blown tourist season is the biggest indicator. Strolling along the Dal Lake, tourists appear to be in a world oblivious to everything around. The presence of security personnel at every few steps reassures them that they are secure. Ironically, their presence also indicates that all is not hunky-dory.
“With so much security around, tourists can get a little wary. These little things impact our business, which has already taken a beating. Revoking the special status of J&K has not gone down well and the presence of the forces indicates that normalcy has not yet returned,” says Irshad, a taxi driver.
Scratch the surface a little, and all kinds of apprehensions pour out. “We are hurt and our confidence stands shaken. However irrelevant they may seem, the politicians are right in saying that confidence-building measures should be taken before people run out of patience. So far, there is hope somebody will reach out to the common man. We are not bothered about which party wins, how constituencies are redrawn, whether we are a Union Territory or a state. We are only bothered about not having food in our house and a job to fall back upon. At this point, we have neither,” Gul Qadar, a shikara owner, explains, adding that they only want an inflow of tourists to keep the economy going.
The bunkers on the roadside, unannounced closure of frequented routes and sirens blaring all day as the police and security forces criss-cross through the city —- people in Srinagar are used to living in the shadow of fear and uncertainty.
However, after the revocation of the special status, they are looking at the Centre to deliver on promises that will “bring them some relief”.
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