Being a mumbaikar, hearing calls for a strike or a band arent a rarity. I remember a few days when I left for school, only to find out a strike had been declared on my way there, and we turned to go back home. But this was no where as frequent, as the bandhs Ive experienced in Srinagar. The JRL has to make one announcement, for the city to come to a grinding halt. As an outsider, their shutdowns have affected me in certain ways. Since I dont cook, several eateries I frequent for my regular meals are closed on these days. My commutes to Lal Chowk or Nowhatta also take longer, as public buses and sumos dont come by on the streets as often as they do on regular days. My fruit vendor is closed, as so is my dry cleaner. Yes, if you visit Boulevard road, you might find some semblance of normalcy, but go anywhere in the heart of the city, and you will find desertion and stillness. Shutters down, no hawkers, minimum traffic, make up for an almost eerie Srinagar. This is the situation in which the military presence seems heightened, and uniformed men with their massive weaponry seem to stand out on the streets.
I have no moral or political position on these shutdowns, nor do I feel my life gets extremely curtailed on these days. But I cant help but think just how much Kashmiri locals are affected by this. Several schools in the city also remain closed on these days, and students fall back, in what is already a delayed syllabus schedule. Vendors arent allowed to sell their vegetables or trinkets on the sides of streets, and this could hurt those who live on a hand to mouth basis. Locals may be accustomed to this trend. But for me, I find it mildly disturbing why bringing the city to a grinding halt is a necessary form of dissent, and what good could it ultimately bring in the long run. If people have to work, let them. If they need to study, let them. I hope a sleeping city, does not become an exemplar of dissent in Kashmir. Standing up to someone doesnt mean one goes in hiding. Protest should highlight ones presence, and be present vociferously, to make ones voice heard.
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