Haft Chinar: 25 years of a security ritual

Junaid Nabi Bazaz

Srinagar: It is an annual ritual in Haft Chinar. Every year, on the eve of India’s Independence Day and the Republic Day, the top floors of all houses in the locality are occupied by the armed personnel, who form a layer of multi-tier security for the Bakshi Stadium, where a parade is organised to celebrate these days.
In the 90s, the army would occupy the houses. Today, the policemen do the job.
“This restricts our movement. We have to be in our homes. And sometime, we have to offer them tea as well,” said Shabir Ahmad, a resident.
Many residents said the womenfolk, especially the young girls, are sent to relatives’ places. During the intense periods of the militancy, men too would abandon homes.
“That was the level of fear we had had then. The CRPF considered us as their enemies. The security used to be so intense that they stepped in our homes at any time in the night without informing us. And because of this fear we kept doors of our houses unlatched fearing that if we fail to wake up, the results would be brutal,” says Mohammad Younis, another resident.
However, the residents said, the police have replaced the CRPF and provided them a breather. With the police in command, the searches of the houses, which would start five days before the events, have stopped.
In fact, Younis said, the residents now receive relatives who drop by after watching the parade at the stadium because they “are no longer subjected to searches”.