It was for the first time in last over two-and-half months that the Sunday market stayed open at Lal Chowk, Kashmir’s main market, which had usually seen deserted roads and closed shops. The curfew, which was imposed in the Valley for the last 79 days, was lifted from all parts of Kashmir on Sunday but restrictions on an assembly of people remained in force in most areas as a precautionary measure.
The footpath vendors had laid out the used clothes, shoes, and handicraft products on the charpoys as people thronged the market. People had lined up outside petrol pumps and heavy movement of vehicles during the day caused traffic jams at many places.
In the new protest calendar that was issued by the separatists in Srinagar, it was for the first time that the relaxation was given from 2 pm to 6 am on Sunday. In the previous week, there was no relaxation in the strike even during Eid. Even during those two days of the Muslim festival, three people were killed as youth clashed with the forces.
However, Sunday was unusual as would be the evenings when according to the Hurriyat calendar, shops, and other business establishments stay open between 6 pm to 6 am. The protest calendar has changed the routines of the people who work in Kashmir. The working hours for many have spilled into the night and in a large number of areas of Kashmir normalcy returns in the evening after daylong clashes with the forces and the blockades on the roads are removed.
Nazir Ahmad Mir, the owner of Sonatraders, a gas distribution agency, said that he has turned to a new routine following the strike calendar issued by the separatists after the killing of Burhan Wani, Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander. He wakes up before 4 am to oversee the supply of gas cylinders from his godowns at Bemina and Karanagar in Srinagar city and ensures that the delivery is done before 6 am. In the evening, he brings the staff from different parts of Srinagar to his Karan Nagar office who works late into the night to sell the gas cylinders. Mir has turned to this new routine of working in the evening instead of day, after the strike call given by the Hurriyat Conference.
In a fresh protest calendar, issued by the separatists recently, have asked the people to observe the shutdown till 29 September. Besides marking a new way of life in Kashmir, the ongoing protests have also united the two factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq who are issuing a common calendar now. The people are also following the calendar to observe different modes of protests. Youth and elderly are seen rolling out mats on the roads to offer prayers and even turn to the cleaning of lanes and drains.
Around 6 pm shopkeepers are seen opening the shutters and vendors lay wares on the footpath and roads are cleared of blockades. Barbers shops remain filled with people as they wait for their turn for the haircut while people jostle to fill their vehicles at petrol pumps. On Sunday, after 2 pm almost every shop was open in Chanapora and Jawahar Nagar. Traffic police had a tough time regulating the jams in Srinagar as people had parked the vehicles outside the shops in Lal Chowk due to which the pedestrian movement was also affected. There was a total gridlock in the city and it took hours for people to reach the Lal Chowk.
Shiekh Maieed, who runs the Gulshan Book Shop in Srinagar, said:
It was like Eid today. I am studying in Delhi and came to Srinagar only a week back. It has been a great relief after the markets opened
Rouf Ahmad Shiekh, who works at the bookshop, said that he feels that "a siege has been lifted."
At a famous handicrafts shop, Amirudin and Sons, salesman Aijaz Ahmad, said that they have been footing losses of between seven to eight thousand on a daily basis. He, however, said that Kashmir issue should be resolved soon so that people can live peacefully.
The owner of Sonatraders, Mir, said that he has to also bring the staff to the office due to the protests. "I have adjusted to a new routine of life after the protest calendars were issued by the Hurriyat Conference. The internet services remain suspended here due to which we are not able to make the online bookings for home delivery. It is due to this that I have to ferry the staff to the office during the relaxation in the shutdown announced," he said.
The Hurriyat Conference has issued the calendar asking people to carry out their business between 6pm to 6 am. However, President of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Mohammad Ashraf Mir, said that the industries have not benefitted from the protest calendar.
“Due to the incidents of stone pelting we are not able to carry the truckloads of material to the industrial estates. However, there are only a few industries which are functional like the two medical oxygen supply plants. We are footing a loss of Rs 100 crore daily, but we are continuing with the protests as more than the business' loss it is the loss of daily lives that matters for us. The government should hold dialogue with separatists to end the current unrest.”