A stone-thrower at Saida Kadal in Srinagar said that some television channels had beamed pictures of “normality”, which had enraged the pro- azadi protesters who came out on the roads to enforce their writ. Curfew was later re-imposed in some areas.
The security establishment appeared to be preparing for such a cycle: test the waters by lifting the curfew and quickly re-impose the restrictions if the situation deteriorates.
The pro- azadi protesters too seem to be testing the nerves of the security forces. If the taut nerves snap and the youths suffer fresh casualties, the protests are certain to flare up again. One of the factors that has kept the protest raging for 52 days is the casualty list: around 70 deaths and thousands of pellet injuries.
Although the casualties have deepened the anti-India sentiment in the Valley, many residents seem frustrated by the unbroken chain of curfews and shutdowns.
In public, people express full support for the separatist shutdown programme but in private some do long for signs of normality.
|A protester prepares to throw a piece of rock at policemen in Srinagar. (Reuters)|
“We have to feed our families for which we have to work. If you don’t earn for months, you will go hungry. Where on earth do you see endless shutdowns and curfew?” asked a Srinagar resident who runs a cycle repair shop.
“We support them (the separatist leadership) but they have to think about the poor families who are battered by shutdowns.”
Former Kashmir University professor Noor Ahmad Baba has said the azadi movement confronts a state that is not going to give up easily. “I don’t ask them (the separatists) to surrender their objective. But you cannot push people into destitution…. There has to be a long-term strategy and you have to give a breather to the people.”
Shakeel Qalender, a member of the Kashmir Chamber for Development and Social Studies, a civil society group, said most Kashmiris were locked in a “now-or-never” struggle against India. He added that the central and state governments were busy enforcing normality.
“People say we are ready to suffer any loss but it (the agitation) would not come again and again. We are in a do-or-die position. Everybody is involved in it. The overwhelming majority is not tired,” he said.
Qalender then listed the economic cost, saying the Valley had suffered losses well over Rs 5,000 crore in the past 52 days.
“Every day of curfew or shutdown costs us Rs 110 crore. Tourism, trading and transport are the worst affected. Manufacturing, too, has taken a hit. Then you have a million-strong workforce (excluding the agriculture and horticulture sectors) who are either paid idle wages or are not paid at all,” he said.
“Besides, horticulture yields business of Rs 100 crore a day. The harvesting season for apples has started. If the situation persists and the produce do not reach the markets outside the Valley, horticulture will take a hit,” he said.
Of the past nine years, five have sapped the Valley economically – witnessing waves of agitation in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016 and a devastating flood in 2014.