Srinagar: Searching for a story in the downtown, I found the usually bustling streets of Nowhatta and its vicinity in an unusual hush on Sunday. There were armed policemen and paramilitary CRPF troops everywhere. Stones, pieces of tree logs, barbed wires were laid on the roads to restrict the movement of vehicles. Intrigued by the scene, I walked down the lanes tracking the CRPF posts, hoping to find the end of these barricades. It was in vain; they were never-ending.
I received inquisitive looks from the police, so I decided to ask them for the reason behind the barricades. I was acquainted with the Friday restrictions but such restrictions on a Sunday were a little strange.
I questioned the CRPF and police in every street. The answer was the same: “I don’t know.”
Talking to them revealed that the purpose of restrictions is not always disclosed to them. One of them said, “I don’t know why there has been a restriction imposed today. I only follow the orders. The purpose behind such moves is not explained.”
Surprised and curious, I approached the locals. They sounded more aware of the reason. “These restrictions are imposed because tomorrow, which is the 21st of May, is the date when Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was assassinated. To curb the protests and stone-pelting that might take place, they’ve imposed restrictions in advance. Also, this is a very sensitive area and protests are triggered here easily,” said Altaf, a local resident.
Another local, residing at Nowhatta, Sheikh Ahmad, said, “This is very common here. ‘Hartal’ happens every week and sometimes even for five-six days a week. Protests are only growing vigorous every day and the government is making plans for everything to curb the protests.”
From Khanyar to Nowhatta to Saraf Kadal, I walked through the interiors, almost lost in the junctions of the streets, trying to find a way out of the restricted area. I asked a policeman for these never-ending blockades and he replied, “Restrictions were imposed in old parts of Srinagar city which include Khanyar, Rajouri Kadal, Nowhattta, due to the strike that was scheduled for the next day.”
I was a little satisfied to come across at least one person who has been assigned this duty who also knows the reason for it.