Srinagar: The shopkeepers were waiting outside their shops. As the clock struck 2 in the afternoon, the shutters went up from Residency Road to Hari Singh High Street. And gradually, hundreds of vehicles filled the roads and streets. The coils of concertina wire that blocked the road to prevent vehicular and pedestrian movement disappeared.
The sudden change—from deserted streets to frenzied activity— happened in response to pro-freedom leadership’s call to resume routine life after 2pm on Sunday till 6am on Monday.
This is the longest relaxation in the weekly protest calendar—marked by strikes and other activities—announced by the freedom camp following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s iconic commander Burhan Wani and his two associates on July 8, an event that triggered the massive anti-India uprising in Kashmir valley and parts of Ladakh and Jammu.
By the evening, hundreds of shops glittered in bright lights and traffic on both thoroughfares in the area—Residency Road and Maulana Azad Road—was chock-a-bloc. The flea market, which was a craze among shoppers during “normalcy” on Sundays regained a bit of lost sheen.
“Most of the makeshift stalls were not erected because many traders could not come from old city parts. Several traders are running out of stock,” Muhammad Yousuf, a trader told Kashmir Reader.
A small number of traffic cops initially attempted to manage the unruly traffic but soon gave up due to the heavy rush of vehicles.
“See whose writ is working in Kashmir? The shops re-opened at 2pm sharp as per the Hurriyat Conference’s programme,” said a local resident, Muhammad Younis.
This time, unlike in the past, the police and paramilitaries did not stop shopkeepers from opening their shops. At several places, the policemen became inconspicuous as common people began dominating the streets.
Similar scenes were witnessed in most parts of uptown Srinagar. However, the relaxation in shutdown hours had not a significant impact in the countryside.
In south Kashmir’s Anantnag, rumours about the withdrawal of relaxation impacted the re-opening of shops and business establishments. While in some areas, the life returned to normal, some other pockets remained closed due to the rumours.
The shopkeepers in the highway town of Awantipora did not open their shops in protest against the nocturnal raids and arrest of some local youth by the police.
The neighbouring Tral town wore a deserted look as the government forces blocked all roads leading to the town to thwart a proposed pro-freedom rally. The vehicular and pedestrian movement to the town was completely blocked till late in the afternoon. The town, native place of Burhan Wani, has remained completely shut since July 9.
Police said no untoward incident was reported from any part of the Valley during the day.