PULWAMA/SRINAGAR: Curfew was reimposed in Srinagar, bringing normal life to a halt, a day after restrictions related to gatherings were partially relaxed to help locals prepare for Eid.
With the Union territory remaining in a lockdown, the mood across Srinagar and south Kashmir were anything but celebratory ahead of the festival on Monday.
Shops remained shut, concertina wires were put to restrict movement and communication lines remained cut off for the seventh day. Security forces said that a decision on permitting gatherings at mosques for prayers on Monday has not been taken.
In Pulwama, a hotbed of militant activity in Kashmir, even the pre-Eid relaxation on restrictions were not enough to prompt banks to open shutters, although people remained queued outside branches of J&K Bank for hours.
On Saturday, even as the curfew was relaxed across the Valley for a few hours, most shops—except select bakeries—remained shut and hundreds queued up outside banks and ATMs in a desperate bid to withdraw money.
Even as anger and desperation ran high among the youth, some remained hopeful of a calm Eid.
“What they (Centre) have done is grossly unjust. Fine, you have now split up J&K and removed special status for us. But why are you hurting us like this? We are willing to wait and see the positive effect of this move but by treating all of us like miscreants, how can you win our support?" asked Mubarak Ahmad Wani, a resident of Pulwama.
Residents complained that lifting of curfew for a few hours was futile as money is in short supply across the region.
“We have been waiting since 9am for the bank to open. We have tried all the ATMs here too. Not a single official has come. If we don’t have money, how will we buy anything for Eid? We need money to stock up on medicines at least. There needs to be some system where they at least open the bank for one hour so that we can get some money," said 62-year-old Aamir Ali, a resident of Pulwama.
In Srinagar, even as the relaxation of curfew on Saturday saw people milling around the streets, the entire downtown region, including the Jamia Masjid area, remained shut while a complete curfew remained imposed along the Maisuma Masjid area near Lal Chowk.
Meanwhile, workers at the Hazratbal Shrine, which witnesses gathering of a few hundred thousand people during Eid celebrations, failed to make adequate arrangements for the festival because of the restrictions. The curfew may not be lifted on Monday as security forces who keep vigil along the area said that they would “take stock" of the situation only on Monday.
While sporadic incidents of stone pelting were witnessed near Nowhatta, Maisuma and Ram Bagh in Srinagar, locals said that any hope the Centre had of reaching out to the people would be lost, if the blanket shutdown was not lifted for Eid.
“At least restore the ability to make calls. How else will we wish people? By all means, crack down on those who throw stones because no human being—whether it is a soldier or a Kashmiri —should be hurt. But if there is still a curfew and we aren’t allowed to go to mosques, it will send a very bad message," said Firdaus Bhat, a shop owner in Srinagar.