December 11, 2019
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Battle Fatigues

Battle Fatigues
Returning to Srinagar after nearly a decade is a profoundly disturbing experience. The shimmering Dal Lake lined with stately chinar trees is still there. So are the winding roads and quaint old buildings that make Srinagar one of the most picturesque cities across the country. What is missing is the political adrenalin that raced through its veins.

In the seventies and eighties, Srinagar bustled with boisterous political debates in cafes and streetcorners. This was replaced with an outburst of insurrection on the streets at the start of the nineties after the dramatic abduction of Rubaiya, daughter of the then home minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri youth danced on the roads and bylanes mocking security forces crouching in convoys and sandbagged bunkers. Mosque microphones preached armed insurgency.

A decade of armed militancy later, polemics, anger, hopes, dreams have all vanished from Srinagar. Today, like a terminally ill patient, the city limps along with its eyes shut. Militant attacks, increasingly the handiwork of shadowy foreign mercenary groups, are no longer cause for celebration. Nor do street patrols of armed bsf jawans provoke a second glance from bystanders. There is simply no interest left in politics, just a bitter sense of despondency.

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