Even as the rest of the country is planning to celebrate Republic Day with fervor and enthusiasm, Kashmiri people largely feel choked in the wake of stringent security arrangements for the big day in the conflict zone.
Over the years, ahead of the Republic Day celebrations, a high alert has been sounded in Kashmir. The separatist and militant groups, on the other hand, gave the call for complete shutdown asking people to observe it as a “black day.”
While some mainstream parties have politicised the hoisting of tricolor at sensitive areas like Lal Chowk in the heart of summer capital, militants are desperately trying to strike back.
For common people, it’s often inconvenient to move around freely due to frequent frisking and roadside checking of vehicles by security forces. A sudden cordon or crackdown to check any militant activity only adds to the inconvenience of the civilians.
Annually at this time of the year, given the heightened tensions, Kashmiris often refer to the month of January as “Jan-Worry”. Here January 26 or Shathwuh in Kashmiri is the biggest worry: Shatwuh Jan-Worry!
The inUth team spoke to people from various sections of the society to know their viewpoints about Republic Day celebrations in the restive region. A majority of people including elderly and youth believe that except for those associated with the government, nobody celebrates the big day in Kashmir.
Prominent businessman and former President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Sheikh Ashiq claimed that business activities are the “first causality” on Republic Day.
“As January 26 approaches, business is the first causality in the wake of roadside frisking and other security checks. We cannot move around and people often prefer to stay indoors. In the last 25 years (of conflict), I never saw people celebrating this day here as I don’t think there’s anything to celebrate,” Ashiq told inUth.
Bashir Ahmed, a manager at the restaurant, said that Republic Day doesn’t bring any charm in Kashmir. “On January 26 we are very upset as everything is closed. Transport remains off the roads, mobile communication is snapped and we’re very uncomfortable. So, it’s all for the government to decide.”
Rauf Ahmed, a shopkeeper, said that the celebrations in Kashmir are confined only to the Baskhi Stadium, the main venue for the Republic Day parade. “Only the bureaucrats and other government functionaries go there whereas we cannot move from one place to another due to unnecessary checking.”
Junaid Pandith, a B Tech pass-out also said that he often finds a stark contrast between Kashmir and the other states when it comes to Republic Day celebrations. “In other states it’s a day of joy but in Kashmir, a conflict zone, restrictions deprive people of happiness.”
Junaid also believes that New Delhi should grant autonomy to Kashmir. “At least that will have some relevance of this day in our lives.”
Many others like Parvaiz Ahmed, a security guard at a mall, declined to comment on the “sensitive issue” of Republic Day pleading that it will “invite more of troubles.”