Srinagar: Normal life remained paralysed in the Valley as the stalemate over the Centre’s stripping J&K of its special status and splitting the state into two Union territories entered its 50th day on Monday.
Restrictions under Section 144 CrPc were in force in only a few pockets of Srinagar to maintain law and order, witnesses said. However, officials said the security forces in large numbers continue to patrol the streets of Srinagar and other Valley towns. They added that no major incident of violence was reported from anywhere.
Shops and other businesses stayed shut in the Valley on the 50th day running, even though some marketplaces, mainly in Srinagar, were open for a few hours in the morning “to enable people to buy eatables and other essential commodities”. Street vendors could be seen doing fairly good business in several parts of Srinagar on Monday.
Public transport remained off the roads but increased movement of private cars and other vehicles was visible not only Srinagar but in several other parts of the Valley. The situation in Jammu and Ladakh was normal, reports received here said.
The restrictions were first imposed in J&K, except in Leh district of Ladakh, and some parts of Jammu on August 5 when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate J&K into two UTs. The restrictions were lifted in phases from the Jammu region and many areas of Kashmir, but were reimposed in Srinagar areas and some other vulnerable parts of the Valley “as and when required to maintain law and order”, mainly on Fridays.
Internet services have remained suspended across all platforms. While landline phones in the Valley are now functional, voice calls on mobiles are working only in a few pockets of Kupwara district.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s efforts to reopen schools in the Valley have failed to yield the desired results as parents remain disinclined to send their wards to these due to fears about their safety.
Officials said a majority of teachers and other staff do report for duty after the government announced the reopening of primary, middle and high schools in a phased manner across the Valley, but admit parents largely continue to keep children at home for a variety of reasons, mainly over security concerns.
However, in several Valley areas, local residents have started “community schools” at which volunteers are imparting education to children of all communities.
Maheen Feroz, a student at one of these makeshift schools set up in Srinagar’s Khanyar area, said: “We couldn’t go to school for the past two months. We thought we won’t be able to do any better if exams are held on time (October-November). But our hope was rekindled after we started coming here a couple of weeks ago.”
Another student, Zuhra, said: “Everything is closed in Kashmir. We’re unable to go to school. But here we have got very good teachers who do take care of our educational needs.”
Ishrat, who teaches at this school, said: “We can’t afford to let our children lose precious time by sitting idle at home so long. This is a crucial moment as their exams are approaching. I don’t think the government will defer exams or agree to mass promotion.”
She added: “So I volunteered to hold classes for students from nursery to Class 10 here for three to five hours every day. Several others, including those who teach at private institutions, too have joined us.”
Lately, some major schools in the Valley like Delhi Public School, Presentation Convent, Tyndale Biscoe and Burn Hall, are issuing video lessons and written assignments to their students for completing at home. A few schools have also started conducting pre-board exams for students of higher classes.