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'Kashmir Is Tense. Let's Have Tea. This Could Be The Last Time We Are Together'

As tension grips Kashmir, journalist Naseer Ganai captures the mood of Kashmiris

'Kashmir Is Tense. Let's Have Tea. This Could Be The Last Time We Are Together'
Boys walk at a village covered with a white blanket of snow after snowfall at Gagangir in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday put the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army on high operational alert and asked the people not to heed rumours and speculation. Unaware of the alert, people carried on with their lives.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised a question on Twitter. “What “ongoing situation” in Kashmir would require the Army AND the Air Force to be on alert? This isn’t about 35A or delimitation. This sort of alert, if issued, would be about something very different.”

In the afternoon, the Army and the police addressed a joint press conference. They said militant leadership of all outfits especially Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar e Toiba, Jaish e Mohammad and Ghazwat-ul-Hind was the main target and in the last six to seven months, the security forces have been able to kill most of the top militant leadership.

They said Pakistan was desperate to disrupt the peace in the Valley, but it will not be allowed to happen. The designs of Pakistan and the Pakistani army will be foiled at all costs, they said. “Nobody can disrupt the peace in Valley, this is the promise to people of Kashmir and everyone in the nation."

Barely an hour or so after the press conference, Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra issued an advisory to Amarnath pilgrims and tourists to curtail their stay in Kashmir immediately.

“Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats with specific targeting of the Amarnath Yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible,” the order reads.

As the order got circulated extensively on social media, panic gripped the people and rumours about what was going to happen started doing the rounds once again. In the evening, people visited grocery shops, chemists and petrol pumps. They asked each other what to stock up, unaware yet bracing for the government's next move. People also went to the ATMs to get some cash.

Just like others, my friends and I also discussed the looming uncertainty. On Thursday, Governor Satya Pal Malik beautifully summed up the situation in the valley. He said everything is normal but he cannot predict the future. What could be the future? Friends insisted we have tea together.

One of my colleagues said this could be the last time we are together. Later, I went to a chemist at Jawahar Nagar, where people waited for their turn and asked how much medicine they should take home. The receptionist insists they take medicine for at least a week so that others also get their share. Customers agreed. Even at the petrol pump, despite a long queue, despondency loomed large.

There was more to come. Late in the evening, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was shouting at her guards to open the gates of her residential house at the Fairview. They took some time, for maybe they were waiting for the orders. Let it sink in.

She went to the residence of Farooq Abdullah. She later addressed a press conference with Sajad Lone, Shah Faesal by her side. They urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to tinker with the State’s special status. “The Prime Minister must ensure that the sacrifices of people of Jammu and Kashmir do not go waste. I appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to tinker with J&K’s special status,” Mehbooba said.

Sajad Lone said we are committed to being united with all parties to defend and safeguard the special identity of Jammu and Kashmir. They drove to Raj Bhawan asking the Governor Satya Pal Malik to dispel rumours that have “caused a sense of panic in the Valley.” The Governor has reportedly said unnecessary panic is being created in the Valley and asked people not to believe in “exaggerated rumours.”

Principal Secretary, Home Department, Shaleen Kabra who issued advisory asking tourists and yatris to leave the Valley late Friday evening to jumped in, and asked people not to believe in rumours but said the orders for yatris and tourists were issued given the threat perception.

As the government asks people to be calm, tourists in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg and Srinagar, have been taken out and ferried to Jammu, safely.

Late in the midnight, another order was issued by National Institute of Technology, suspending classes till further orders. It asked non-local students that the district administration has arranged transport facilities for students to leave the campus by 7 a.m.

Despite all this, the government is asking people not to believe rumours. However, in the same vein, it says the orders leading to panic in the Valley are real.

The people are calmly, keenly and stoically watching what is in store for them. Rehman Rahi, Kashmiri poet, litterateur, the Jnanpith Award winner once addressing a literary function in Srinagar's Sri Pratab College said Kashmiris have suffered immensely in the past few hundred years but Kashmir has outlived its oppressor.

At present Kashmiris have this hope that they will outlive these orders. 

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