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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Geelani’s reminder of 2010 turmoil evokes mixed response

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Jun 11: Radical separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s call for shutdown on occasion of the second death anniversary of a teenager, allegedly killed in Police firing, evoked mixed response in Kashmir today. Commercial traffic remained partially off the road and shops remained shut in several areas of this capital city as the Hurriyat (G) chief sought to remind the Kashmiris beginning of a three-month-long summer agitation that consumer over a hundred civilian lives in 2010.

Even as none of the government offices or banks was seen shuttered, attendance was moderate and most of the business establishments remained closed in the Civil Lines. Downtown interior too wore a deserted look. Reports of a partial bandh also poured in from other district headquarters and a couple of major towns in the Valley.

Nevertheless, minibuses, busy in transportation of commuters, were in operation not only in the capital city but also in several rural townships and district headquarters. Some of the towns like Sopore remained shut over Geelani’s call but others, like Handwara, had no significant impact of the shutdown. Reports said that shops and business establishments functioned as usual in parts of Srinagar besides most of the rural Kashmir townships. Banks, government and private offices as well as public and private educational institutions operated without paying heed to the call for shutdown.

Geelani had called upon the Kashmiris to observe “total shutdown” in remembrance of teenager Tufail Matoo of Sayeedakadal locality who was the first to fall to Police teargas shelling in 2010. In the following three months, over a hundred civilian demonstrators and stone pelters had died in the middle of 2010 in violent clashes with Police and paramilitary forces. Deaths on the streets finally came to end when as many as eighteen demonstrators died in Police and CRPF firing at several places, and a constable was lynched, during massive protest demonstrations against an incident of sacrilege of holy Quran by a pastor in America on September 13th.

In sharp contrast to the street turmoil in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Valley of Kashmir is currently witnessing the best of the peace and an overflowing tourist season---first time after the halcyon days of 1988. According to officials as well as the thousands of people associated with the business of tourism and hospitality, all the hotels, guesthouses and houseboats are currently packed to capacity in Srinagar as well as other tourist resorts like Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg.

In addition to hundreds of luxury coaches and taxis, minimum of 20 flights from New Delhi and other cities carry passengers, mostly tourists, every day. Consequently, the air travel in Delhi-Srinagar sector has become as expensive as that of Delhi-Dubai and Delhi-Singapore because all the airlines have hiked their rates substantially. First time in history, one way tickets in Delhi-Srinagar sector have sold in the incredible range of Rs 15,000- Rs 22,000.

Year 2011 too ended up with a record of tourists and pilgrims. Authorities, however, insist that the current year would comfortably break all previous records of the tourist influx in Kashmir.

On the other hand, Valley’s separatist leadership, that dominated the political space fully for three previous years but has been rendered irrelevant since October 2010, has been trying all of its methods to create an atmosphere of the year 2008 and 2010. Today’s call for shutdown was obviously an attempt to remind the Kashmiris scores of deaths on the streets.

Reports said that neighbours and relatives of the Matoo family participated in the remembrance ceremony with recitation of verses from holy Quran. However, none of the key separatist leaders was in attendance. Separatist circles maintained that most of the Hurriyat bigwigs were not permitted to move out of their residence by Police.


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