Srinagar: This is a residential address coveted by Valley politicians, bureaucrats, police officers—the people who live in the shadow of gun and for whom security has become a part of life. It is called Friends Enclave Humhama Heights. You can call it Kashmir’s mini “Green Zone”.
The Enclave is a stone’s throw away from the gate of the Valley’s largest airbase, a tiny corner of which doubles up as the ‘International’ Airport. Built over 200 kanals of land as a housing cooperative, the colony’s roads are well paved. You can see a lot of security vehicles on the roadside and security personnel perched on balconies or rooftops of the residences.
“Due to its proximity to the airport, this residential colony is safer than many protected official residential complexes. The security personnel manning the airport gate become the guardians of Friends Enclave as well,” said a retired officer who owns a house in the colony.
The who’s who of the Enclave include state Congress chief Saifuddin Soz, former MP Mehboob Beg, outgoing ministers Ajaz Khan, Sakina Yatoo, Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan, Mohammad Akbar Lone, chairman Legislative Council Abdul Rashid Dar, Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday, Commissioner Secretary agriculture production Asgar Samoon, and former IGPs Javid Makhdoomi and Farooq Ahmad. Very few residents have nameplates on the houses, as if they cherish anonymity.
Not surprisingly, the land prices in the Enclave have risen steeply. Mohammad Ramzan, a local real estate agent, said a plot of land that cost Rs 20-30 lakh a few years ago sells for Rs 1.20 crore or more. The colony is like any other residential cluster without special facilities.
Being part of the power structure comes at a risk. In 2005, then Minister of State for Education Dr Ghulam Nabi Lone was shot dead by militants in the high-security Tulsi Bagh complex, where ministers, legislators and bureaucrats are allotted government residences. Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, CPI (M) state secretary, narrowly escaped unhurt in the attack.
In 2011, while attending a family function at his ancestral home in Nawab Bazaar area of old city, outgoing Minster for Rural Development Ali Mohammad Sagar escaped an assassination bid. His personal security guard was however killed in the attack.
Security appears to be the main motive behind Enclave’s residents. An officer, who lives in nearby Gogoland area, wishing anonymity, said that many people were denied permission to construct houses near the airport.
“No such objection was raised when Friends Enclave came up because of its high-profile residents,” he said.