Life back to normal in Kashmir Valley, schools open
By Sheikh Qayoom, Srinagar, March 18 : Life started normally in summer capital Srinagar and all other major towns of the Valley Monday as people thronged markets, banks and workplaces. Law enforcing agencies, though, were alert and on their toes.
Educational institutions opened normally, as scores of school buses carrying children started dotting the roads in the morning. Parents eagerly waited at bus stops to see their children off to school.
Interestingly, to make up for time lost because of the disturbed law and order situation during the last over one month, some private schools have decided to keep their institutions open on Sundays too.
Even markets which usually remain closed on Sundays remained open March 17.
Authorities, however, have little reason for complacency: Separatists have been issuing schedules of protests on a weekly basis, asking people to observe shutdowns.
The calendar of protests is issued by the united coordination committee of various separatist groups called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Mushawarat (MMM).
The separatists had also closed ranks during the summer unrest of 2010, for issuing protest calendars.
A marked difference, however, between the protests of 2010 and now, is that shutdown calls these days are restricted to just one day a week.
In 2010, continuous and uninterrupted shutdowns during the summer months had finally generated a backlash among the people.
Despite stone-pelting incidents and the threat of being caught in clashes between security forces and unruly mobs wielding stones, parents chose to send their children to schools and colleges this time.
In the wake of Afzal Guru's hanging Feb 9, separatist groups have launched a campaign to mount pressure on the government to press for the return of the mortal remains of Guru to his family in Kashmir. Guru was buried in Tihar Central Jail.
The MMM has said the current spell of protests would continue till Afzal Guru's body is returned.
Despite the decision to continue their campaign for the return of Afzal Guru's body, the separatists have been making sure that the people are not too hard-hit, this time.
While maintaining law and order and performing their duties in the Valley, security forces have been ordered to ensure that they avoid civilian casualties and exercise restraint.
Although five civilians died during protests in the Valley since Feb 9, yet the way the law and order situation has been handled during this period has been mature and restrained.
This is a big difference from the summer unrest of 2010, in which 110 people were killed in bloody clashes between unruly mobs and security forces.
The most worrisome development for security forces and intelligence agencies has, however, been the fidayeen attack that occurred in Srinagar March 13.
Five CRPF troopers and two Pakistani fidayeen guerrillas were killed in the attack.
Police has claimed to have unearthed the entire plot that led to the fidayeen attack which occurred after a gap of three years.
As per police sources, a local identified as Bashir Ahmad Mir originally belonging to the Uri border town ferried the guerrillas to Srinagar from north Kashmir's Baramulla district.
Mir is also believed to have facilitated the infiltration of these guerrillas.
Upon his disclosures, the police has also arrested another Pakistani guerrilla named Zubair alias Abu Talha of Multan.
A local from Baramulla town who arranged the stay of the guerrillas in Tangmarg area of Baramulla has also been arrested.
Although the conspiracy which led to the fidayeen attack is claimed to have been unearthed, nobody will vouch that the March 13 suicide attack was the last the Valley is destined to witness.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)