No tri-colours here: Kashmir observes Independence Day
Unlike tri-colours and buntings adorning the markets places all over India, Kashmir wore a deserted look with concertina wires and barricades erected around the Bakshi stadium, venue of Independence Day celebrations on August 15. Cell phones were jammed as policemen in riot gear manned all the major streets in summer capital Srinagar.
THE TRI-colour festoons and buntings adorning the market places, corporate logos with tri-colour tinge, patriotic songs and tunes playing all around, the day’s greetings on roadside hoardings and newspaper advertisements, participation in the Independence Day functions… This is a depiction of Independence Day celebrations across the length and breadth of India
but for Kashmir, the scenes are diametrically opposite. It’s curfew, restrictions, shutdown, road blockades, checking and frisking of civilian population to ensure the “celebrations” of a miniscule section of people pass without any hindrances.
Separatists usually call a strike for the day across the valley and observe it as a black day. They want to remind India and her people that while they celebrate their Independence Day every year, the same is being denied to Kashmiris day in and out. It is for these calls that the state government goes all out and uses a slew of measures to ensure that there is no embarrassment to New Delhi by burning of tri-colour or raising of black flags and that the day passes without any untoward incident.
The day is marked by a majority of Kashmiris staying indoors. Yes, for the sake of the day, there are functions held in all the towns and districts of the valley with main function held at the Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar. It is the ministers, MLAs, MLCs and government officials, who participate in the function as their colleagues take the guard of honour.
The venues for these functions are sealed by barricades, drop gates and concertina wires, days ahead of August 15 while preparations are made for the functions. The checking, frisking of population and restrictions on their movement is imposed simultaneously. Large number of police and paramilitary troopers, armed with automatic rifles and wearing all sorts of riot gear, are deployed on the roads and streets. In many cases separatist activists, ex-militants and stone pelters are rounded up in police stations. Areas where anti-India sentiment runs deep, such as the downtown of summer capital Srinagar city, twin towns of Sopore and Baramulla in North Kashmir and Anantnag (Islamabad) town in south Kashmir are put under curfew on the day.
Each year there are new additions made to the list of the “security measures” meaning more worries and more inconvenience for the civilian population. For example last August 15, and this Republic Day in January, state government blocked all the communication channels and shut down the cellular operations and Internet services of all service operators till the official functions were over. Interestingly, the month also marks the completion of two years of SMS services remaining suspended in the Valley.
A common Kashmiri on the street not only sees August 15 as just another day of strike and no work. But for him it is a day, which is preceded by ordeals like search operations and everyday checking and frisking and he, therefore, prays for the day to pass as quickly as possible so that he can again venture out of him freely.