Normalcy in Kashmir valley after eight days of shutdown

August 19th, 2008 - 1:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 19 (IANS) Schools, shops and offices in the Kashmir valley opened again Tuesday as normalcy returned after eight days of shutdown against police firing on demonstrators protesting the alleged “economic blockade” over the Amarnath land row. A day after thousands of people were out on the streets chanting secessionist slogans, Srinagar was once again bustling with students headed to schools and colleges. Educational institutions were closed for nearly 20 days with the summer vacations coinciding with the consecutive days of the shutdown - and the violence.

Markets, government offices, banks and business establishments in the valley also opened, though there was some trepidation.

“I am opening my shop after so many days. But I am apprehensive. God save us. We were about to run out of rations,” said Moulvi Sultan Shah, a grocery owner in the city centre Lal Chowk.

Long queues of vehicles were seen outside petrol pumps in Srinagar with most saying they had exhausted their stocks.

“I have been waiting since 6 a.m. to get petrol filled in my car,” said Shameem, 28, a college teacher.

According to a government spokesperson, supply of essential commodities through the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway - the only motorable link to the valley - had resumed.

“As many as 372 load carriers with fuel and essential commodities reached Srinagar Monday,” he said.

These included 19 truckloads of sheep, 146 of rice and 46 of chicken. The tankers included 72 of diesel, 24 of kerosene oil, 41 of petrol and 24 of LPG.

Load carriers that left the Kashmir valley included 446 trucks of fresh fruit, 32 of vegetables and 93 other vehicles, said the official.

He added that as many as 90 tankers had turned back after unloading fuel at various points in the valley.

On Aug 11, at least five people, including a senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir’s moderate Hurriyat faction, were killed in clashes with security forces as they marched towards the Line of Control in Baramulla district against an “economic blockade”. Since then, tension had escalated leading to people defying curfew and police firing on protesters at several places.

While 17 more people in the Kashmir valley were killed subsequently, the toll for both Jammu and Kashmir is about 40. The dispute over 40 hectares of land in the valley being given to the Amarnath board that manages the pilgrimage to the high altitude shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva led to a polarisation of the state - with Muslim majority Kashmir against it and Hindu dominated Jammu for it.

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