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A Curfew in Spring: Rich Autumns

March 12, 2013
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Photograph by Rich Autumns

RICH AUTUMNS writes from Srinagar: The capital of Kashmir is under tight curfew. Tight does not qualify curfew. It qualifies Srinagar. Srinagar is tight under curfew. The city has stopped breathing. It is an enforced exercise that the Valley undergoes regularly for the sake of law and order. On the deserted streets of Srinagar, Indian Army men stand in army issued jackets nursing rifles under the fresh green leaves of the Chinar. Occasionally a milk man cycles by. Sometimes, he is stopped and turned back. Sometimes he is allowed to pass, after an identity check.

When the government finally decides to lift the tightness, the people will emerge from their houses and search the markets for everything they have been denied all this while – medicines, milk, flour etc. All this before the second round of scourge begins and confines the people into their homes again.

In the frightening unsafe quiet of the curfew, spring has quietly arrived in the gardens of Kashmir. Of course, without the gardeners there is not much it could do. The snow has melted away and the grass is slowly turning green. The sky, however, is alternating between blue and red. An occasional shower of both hues keeps the memories alive. The memories of Kashmir!

The faint smell of new flowers hasn’t been noticed. People are still to get over the pungent smells of pepper canisters. Pepper gas canisters are a new favourite of the paramilitary. The recipe has been perfected to serve the right amounts of law and the correct potions of order in the inhalers. Apparently, over doses have some side effects. An old woman, who wasn’t used to it, died. (Alleged cause of death, of course.)  A middle aged man with a balding head opened the door to his house to look on the street. He saw three army men standing outside his house with batons and thick glass shields. They wore pads like cricketers and bullet proof vests. He shut the gate and sighed. A scared photo journalist captured the moment and drove away. This is the usual series in curfews if at all media men are allowed to wander on the streets.

At different knots in the city people gathered to shout angry slogans. At various places groups of young men collected to pelt stones at the armed paramilitary forces. They ran hither and thither, fired pepper cans, bullets and hid behind their armoured vehicles. Days like these are rare, when no one is killed in such clashes. However, by evening the news of casualties were unleashed upon us. A man injured here, a boy assaulted there. So many cars damaged, so many policemen injured. People now read these reports with the discomforting air of a terminally ill person reading his medical reports. It’s a relief that something faintly positive comes up. Dozens have been injured in the past week of curfew.

The mildly warm afternoon sun lulls the branches of the apricot trees where new buds are only yet germinating. The vines are turning green on caged bricks of the wall, wondering if it is the right time to break into flowers, or shall they wait for a more opportune time. The breeze treads cautiously over the dangerous terrain. Carrying too much perfume in such times could be unholy. The zephyr understands that. It loads itself with the laments of the weeping silent. Some those who cry out loud, others that obscure the pain.

(Rich Autumns is Rich Autumns.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    March 17, 2013 12:55 PM

    It is interesting and disgusting at the same time to note that bloggers and writers are getting carried away and focus only on one aspect of the imbroglio. Always look for the triggers as to why curfews are imposed, and the deaths of some of the innocents occurs. The so called “Unarmed Civilians” are actually rampaging murderous mobs pelting stones, destroying property and torching vehicles. There are also terrorists hidden amongst them with guns to fire on the CRPF. So, kindly administer yourself a large doze of factual logic, before you bleed your ill-logical narrative to death.

  2. March 18, 2013 6:31 PM

    It has been a one long nightmare for sixty five years. India governs Kashmir through endless curfews till you are on your knees. How else do you think an unwelcome presence in an alien land can be maintained and the will of a people broken.

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