SRINAGAR: Wednesday was the second day of Eid, which is celebrated over two and a half days here. It has been a strange kind of Eid, a festival after two months of violent clashes and a celebration under the tightest ever security.
The street scene in Srinagar on Wednesday morning was what you might expect after all that. Traffic was thin with people preferring to stay in. Drones watched from above as policemen stayed in position on the ground.
As the day progressed, reports trickled in of clashes in South Kashmir. But Srinagar slowly allowed itself to let a sense of festive ease set in. By evening, there was a modicum of traffic on the roads, and women and children decked up in Eid finery emerged to feel the cool breeze.
At 5 pm at the office of CRPF’s 161 Battalion at Dal Gate. Commandant Rajesh Yadav was beginning to feel hopeful. ''It’s been relatively calm since yesterday. Our men fired one shell all day, which means the situation is not bad today in Srinagar.”
But he’s a careful man. “We will wait for a couple of days to see whether the situation will improve. Hopefully it will,'' he said.
On the Dal lake front, people are out and about, some taking a stroll, some sitting quietly enjoying the soothing beauty of the lake. ''It’s been a really long time since we walked like this in the open without fear. It’s great,'' says Muhammed Ibrahim, here with his two children.
''It’s Eid and we visited our relatives after a long time. We saw the atmosphere a bit relaxed today and thought we should take a walk along the lake,'' he said.
Nasir Ahmed, a cab driver, sat chatting away with his friends and family members. ''Today the violence of the last two months appears distant. It’s peace today. Inshallah.''
Nobody had any expectations of gaiety this Eid. Troopers told me there had been no orders from the top to take it easy today and allow people on the roads during curfew. ''It just happened, like an unwritten agreement. The people came out and our men allowed them. In the process, our men got to speak to some people, greet them, give chocolates to children. Some of them acknowledged the greetings, many did not. It’s okay. It happens. We don’t expect roses from them,'' said a senior police official to me.
This Eid has been a holiday from violence in Srinagar. On Boulevard Road, families and friends came out for an outing after almost two months. Many sat on the banks of the lake and indulged in some fishing. Some jogged. The presence of a large number of security personnel did not seem to bother them.
No calls for azaadi – a routine affair in the last two months – were heard from a majority of mosques in Srinagar.
But Eid will come to an end at noon Thursday. The forces are keeping their fingers crossed. Some in the establishment feel that once the Durbar Move to Jammu takes place in October, the situation will come back to normal. It’s a hope.
But this Eid has not only been about fatigue-tinged hope. There is anger too. “Is this how we ought to be celebrating Eid? Amid helicopters, drones, curfew and what not?” fumed Haji Ameen, who runs a famous dry fruits shop, ABK Dry Fruits, in the upmarket
Polo View area of Srinagar.
Ameen is 65 and has seen the worst days of militancy in Kashmir. But there had never been never curbs during Eid. ''Kashmir mein jab aman hota hai toh Kashmir jannat hai. Nahin toh who jahannum se bhi battar hai. Yeh kaisi Eid hai?"
The despair is lost in translation: When Kashmir is peaceful, it is heaven. When it is not, it is worse than hell. What kind of Eid is this?
A highly respected figure in Kashmir, Haji Ameen says the solution to the turmoil is simple: “Remove the security forces from here. People will calm down.’’
Dressed in their Eid new clothes, three kids walk past a group of CRPF jawans at Nowbagh in downtown Srinagar. A helicopter hovered in the sky. One of the jawans opens the door of his truck, and offers chocolates to the children. They refuse, walking on.
The trooper asks why. One of the trio, hardly six years old, half turns around and says, ''We don't want anything from you.''