Traffic jams, vendors and public transport out on streets in numbers, and schools and shops open — after a 133-day shutdown life was back to normal, or near-normal, in Srinagar and other parts of Valley on Saturday. Separatists relaxed shutdown for the weekend for the first time since protests began with the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8.
“I opened my shop for the first time since the protests started,” said Nazir Ahmad, who runs a garment shop at Lalchowk. “I live in Pampore (18 km away), so it wasn’t possible for me to open the shop during relaxation given by them (separatists) in the evening (from time to time during the protests). I opened my shops early today and it took me hours just to clean the shop.”
The crowd was not as big as Ahmad had expected. “I was expecting a huge rush, but very few people came,” he said. “I think many stayed back because of the demonetisation. A few customers went back after I refused to take Rs 500 and 1000 notes.”
Schools in Kashmir had closed on June 30 for summer vacations and were to reopen on July 17. But they remained under an extended holiday due to the protests. “We got a text message from the school Friday, informing us that they would be open on Saturday and Sunday,” said Ajaz Rasool, parent of a Class V student. “I don’t understand what they would do there (in school), as the government has announced mass promotion (to next class).”
Rasool added, “I almost forced my child to go to school —at least he would again experience the classroom atmosphere.”
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The state traffic police on Friday had issued an advisory, but Srinagar city still witnessed massive traffic jams on Saturday.
Being hit perhaps the hardest by the shutdown, transporters had demanded the full day relaxation from separatists.
Javid Ahmad Bhat, who ferries people between Srinagar and Sopore, said, “I bought a new vehicle last year and had hardly paid 10 installments of the loan when the shutdown began. The bank hasn’t asked for installments in the last three months but I know they will come knocking anytime now, and I have nothing to pay. I think they (separatists) should think about people like us – there should be more full-day relaxations, like today.”