SRINAGAR: After two months and thirteen days of no work, Javaid Ahmed Sofi manages to return to the Tourist Reception Centre here to sell his merchandise of used clothes.
“My work shall not be mistaken for something else. We cannot forget the sacrifices offered by our people for a cause,” the 35-year-old resident of Mirgund, Budgam, cautions.
“I returned to work for a few hours to be able to earn something for my family.”
Since July 8, the start of the ongoing uprising, Sofi, who earns his livelihood by selling used garments, mostly pants and children’s garments, has not been able to do any business.
The lack of work forced lean-looking hawker to borrow money from his friends, who have been in financial distress for the same reason.
“To what extent could I take loans from people who are labourers like me? I feel embarrassed now, and consider it better to earn some money by working here for a few hours,” says Sofi, in traditional attire.
However, finding customers for his merchandise, ranging from Rs 60 to Rs 250 a piece, isn’t easy under the prevailing circumstances.
For one hour, Sofi waits for customers, but no one approaches him. A few people cautiously moving around in cars or rushing on their bikes don’t appear interested in shopping.
And minus them, policemen, standing behind concertina wire, and traffic cops are the only humans present on the deserted uptown street.
Finally, a man, Abdul Rashid from Rajbagh, walks up to his stall to look for something useful. Sofi speaks with him, and continues: “After 18 army soldiers got killed in Uri attack, they have launched a war cry on television channels. But they were mute when nearly 90 civilians, mostly young boys, were killed by the government forces in Kashmir.”
Abdul Hamid, a resident of Barbarshah here, is also a hawker, dealing in used garments. He has placed his cart, full of shirts with printed images of Che Guevara and Bob Marley, opposite to the Government Arts Emporium.
Four policemen surround his cart, looking for best pieces in the lot. “Some people may consider it otherwise, but Allah knows what made me come here today. I have found a few moments to earn some money and return home,” he says. “Those television channels will show that there is normalcy in valley, but I want to tell them it means earning a living while supporting resistance.”
Taking a deep breath while policemen leave and another customer approaches him, Hamid says: “My wife is suffering from a cardiac ailment. Yesterday, I asked my friend for Rs 2, 000 in order to take her to a doctor.”
“Presence of a few private vehicles and hawkers should not be taken as a sign for normalcy; this is an illusion. Even if poor souls like us only have a single meal available, we have decided to fight for the solution (to Kashmir issue) this time.