Srinagar: Residents of downtown Srinagar have set gates at the entrance of lanes to prevent police and paramilitary troops from entering residential areas during the night. In the years of militancy in the ’90s such gates were set in lanes of Srinagar to avoid military crackdowns.
Residents say that nocturnal raids and ransacking by government forces have become a routine affair and the construction of the gates was the “need of the hour”. “Although the setting up of gates has brought discomfort and the tragic memories of the ’90s, there is no other option to save ourselves from the government forces, who have unleashed a reign of terror as they did during the peak years of armed insurgency,” said a resident.
The gates have come up in Dalal Mohalla and adjoining areas. Made usually of tin, the gates have a small door for passage of people. They are closed and let open at particular times. “A muezzin of our area makes sure that he opens the door at Fajr (morning prayer) and closes it after Isha (night prayer),” said Sheikh Irfan, a resident of the area.
He said that the gates had brought relief from tear smoke shells. “Earlier, forces would enter the lanes and fire tear smoke and chili shells, but now they don’t enter the lanes,” he said.
The area protected by the gates is considered relatively safe, Irfan said. “It feels like an ‘indoor stadium’. We play various games like chess and carom during the days of curfew without the fear of forces. Even women can be seen chatting out of their homes in the lanes,” Irfan said.
Another resident, Nazir Ahmad, said that the gates safeguard both life and property. “We saw what happened in Kani Kadal (in downtown Srinagar) where forces ransacked houses and damaged vehicles and harassed women. We don’t want such things to happen in our area,” said the elderly Nazir Ahmad. “Most importantly, we want to safeguard the honour of our women,” he added.
Abdul Gani, another resident of the mohalla, said, “At a time when every day we hear news of forces barging into houses and ransacking homes and picking up children, we decided to build such gates for our safety.”