SRINAGAR: On the corner of a by-lane that leads to interiors of Saidapora area in Eidgah in Srinagar, half a dozen colourful traditional pherans, hanging on iron rods for display, finds an attraction in passersby. If they don’t buy them, they don’t parry a glance at least.
Adil Ahmad, holding a diploma in electric stream, sells these garments in a corner of a street where not long ago, a frightening bunker was standing. The place was surrounded with silence and fear for more than two decades until the bunker was removed by the government three months ago.
By doing so, Adil thought to dispel the gloom of the place. The building that once served as tax collection centre remained under government forces and was an “impediment” to free moment of public.
Customers arrive and bargain and some of them even buy their choice. This hustle and bustle has been going on since last two weeks. Little kids jostle around, women shop and the “impediment” is no more.
“Earlier people living around the locality would prefer not to roam around the bunker much. After it has gone, they (people) including women have started to come out and move around the once haunted place,” a resident said.
With a rifle in hand and its barrel pointed towards walkers, a sight of soldier of para-military Central Reserve Police Force would often be witnessed atop the bunker. He would monitor anyone and everyone who walked past the banker, people recall the frightening scene at the locality.
“Through the rectangular window of bunker, the eyes of soldiers inside would stare at you every time you pass by it. Queries like where, who and why by soldiers to locals would give feelings of siege and would engulf one’s mind only coming out of it hours or days later,” says Mohammad Akram, a local, taking a sigh of relief that the “siege” was no more.
The network of mesh laid over the bunker and the concertina wires beside that would give a protective edge to government forces have been replaced with colourful pherans with needle-work adorning them.
“More than the protective cover to chilly winter, these hanging pherans rather symbolize that the flowers have blossomed in the flied of thorns,” says another local, Mohammad Sultan who feels that it has warded off the “scary stares” and “irritable questions”.
The place has grim memories of last year attached to it when in October, a 12-year old Junaid Ahmad Akhoon was shot by CRPF troopers outside his home in the same locality when the entire Valley simmered with protest and killings following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani.
Set up by the Border Security Force (BSF) in early ‘90s, the camp was taken over by the CRPF’s 167 battalion later. Before the take-over, the building served as a ‘Guzar’ or excise check-post and as a municipal office later.
“All we hope is that the silence attached to the place would end and more people like Adil will contribute to make this place lively and buzzing all-day,” a group of local youth said.