Srinagar: For the third time in the day, Mohammad, a university student from Pulwama, has come out of his house to go to Srinagar. Twice he has returned indoors after walking to the main road because of the constant noise hovering above his head in the sky.
Neither is it the grumbling of clouds nor the beating wings of swarming birds. The noise that keeps him within the four walls of his house is that of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), commonly known by locals as a drone.
“I think something is going to happen today. It has been three hours that this drone has been making rounds in our area. I think I should cancel my Srinagar plan and wait till everything becomes normal,” said a despairing Mohammad, waiting on the road for 30 minutes for a bus to Srinagar.
Even though people in his locality in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district have been busy in normal chores during the relaxation days as per the programme of resistance leadership, but at regular intervals, the villagers said, these UAVs have been disrupting their normal life and giving them a fright.
“Whenever the drones fly, we assume that either an encounter will start or militants are about to strike. In both the cases, we have apprehensions that we may become collateral damage. We think it better to sit in our houses and we end up wasting many hours sitting idle indoors,” said a resident (wishing anonymity) of Pulwama.
Many villagers, particularly youth, who spoke to Kashmir Reader said that the drones have “interfered in their daily life” and “intruded in their personal space”.
“A few days ago, I went to a shop to buy some essential goods. As I was walking, suddenly a drone flew above me and I became scared. Even when the drone had gone, for at least twenty minutes I wasn’t able to recall what I have to do and where I have to go,” said Ahmad (his second name) who lives along the national highway in Pulwama.
Ahmad said that people chatting or going about their daily chores immediately stop when a drone arrives and wait till it leaves their sight. “It either diverts our attention or we become apprehensive that whatever we are discussing may put our lives in danger,” Ahmad said.
“People here have become extra cautious now. They fear that whatever they do, it may look suspicious to drone cameras,” said a college student.
People also fear that their children may become victims of mental illnesses or of behavioral disorder because of the drones.
Spokesman of Srinagar-based 15 Corps Rajesh Kalia told Kashmir Reader on Wednesday that he has no information about the activity and assured this correspondent that he will confirm it either late evening or “by tomorrow”. However, the said official didn’t respond when contacted on Thursday. This reporter sent him an email and SMS but received no reply.