While the situation in Kashmir continues to be edgy with no let up in pro-freedom protests, a new wave of public resentment is gripping the Valley. This time cutting across individual or political ideologies, people from various walks of life have joined hands to save Chinar, the iconic tree, which is witnessing massacre in the name of infrastructure development in the summer capital of Srinagar. Presently, around a dozen odd iconic Chinars on TRC road near the city center are being axed ruthlessly, to pave way for construction of an overhead bridge. The government decision to axe the Mughal-era trees has triggered massive public outcry.
From businessmen to artists and students to senior citizens, people of various professions and age groups are out on the streets for a collective campaign to save the Chinars. These nature lovers have been holding a variety of protests. Given the curbs on social media services in Kashmir, the protesters prefer to opt for other means of communication to stay in touch, and to gain support for this pro-nature campaign.
On May 3, some concerned citizens, mainly young Kashmiris, formed a human chain around Chinars which are set be face axed in the coming days. Prominent businessman and nature lover, Abdul Hamid who has been annually planting thousands of conifers in Kashmir, was one of them. He says public mobility is must for such causes and thus all like–minded need to join hands.
On May 5, a major sit-in was held outside the office Chinar Development Board, MA Road. As a part of Save Chinar demonstrations, prominent poet Zarief Ahmed Zarief recited some of his satirical couplets, while some young musicians played their instruments like guitars. Interestingly, these protests are being held mainly on the same MA Road, which in the recent past has been bearing the brunt of pro-aazadi protests by students from nearby educational institutions. But the government response to all forms of public resentment looks the same.
While the government failed to initiate any outreach to resolve issues with the protesting students, the Chinar lovers seem to be facing the same cold shoulders, if not necessarily use of police force against them. “Despite all our efforts, official machinery is neither willing to listen to our pleas nor we’re being given a convincing reply over massacre of our green gold. This is sheer injustice in Kashmir but we’ll fight for the cause,” says one protester.