Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cooings on a Curfew morning

Day Three

Third consecutive day of curfew in Kashmir. Movement was mostly trammeled as people remained confined to their homes. There is news though that curfew was defied in a couple of spots. The cops fired upon protestors in several places. Many were beaten up mercilessly in full media glare. The death toll in three days has now gone past 25. The toll of the injured is countless. Hospitals are inundated with the wounded. In Sopore the gun fire just does not abate. It is a perpetual reminder that all is not well and despite the apparent calm, a storm is brewing in the distance.

The local news papers are full of obituaries and tributes to Sheikh Abdul Aziz, a top rung Hurriyet leader who was gunned down Monday as he led a two hundred thousand strong procession during the march to Muzzafarabad. The general strike against the incident is expected to continue till the weekend. Prez Musharraf praised Mr Aziz today. Pakistan has suddenly gotten active after a sinister silence and has passed a resolution condemning the excessive police action in Kashmir. It is preparing to report the matter to UN. India is clearly peeved.

One of my friends managed to click some amazing pictures of the Monday march to Muzzafarabad. In this rare picture, the Hurriyet leader Mr Aziz is seen sitting atop a tractor -- on the right hand side in white Pathani dress -- leading a peaceful demonstration.

This may well be one of the last images of the slain leader because moments later the police shot him dead from point blank. People accompanying him say that the leader was deliberately targeted. The government, of course, refutes the charges.

On a much social level, the changed political climate has altered established norms. With all educational establishments closed for the past one week, children are making merry. No school means the kids are home to pester their parents 24 x 7. There is also an acute shortage of food stuff here. Vegetables are in short supply. Villages have however risen to the occasion. Cartfuls laden with fresh veggies are being brought into townships and city peripheries from the countryside to help the urban populace tide over the hard times.

Staying in Kashmir in these times is riveting and draggy at the same time. These are extraordinary circumstances and each passing day is dramatic. I don’t know how people manage to survive in such settings -- amidst strikes, strife and the suffering. Still they live on! Call it the indomitable human spirit.