It’s been a fortnight since Jammu and Kashmir lost its autonomy and became a truncated Union territory. These are testing times, sad times, desperate times, anxious times, uncertain times, angry times, lie-low times.… Like all roads, the one to Bandipora district in the Valley’s north is rigged with soldiers, armoured cars, and the occasional J&K Police constable spinning his lathi and trying to look pleased with the new order. Men of varying age are seen in small groups along the road. These are strange assemblies surrounded by martial law-style restrictions or curfews. They are silently soaking the balmy August sun peeking through monsoonal clouds; not a single stone in any hand to throw, no temptation either to shout a protest or pelt a rock at the soldiers on patrol.
They won’t talk, young men in warm pheran cloaks basking by a shuttered shop at Saderkote Bala village. As if they are done with the talking. They show least interest in reporters because “you will not show what we will tell you”. Please, we are not television, tell us. The prod works—they were mostly drivers, rendered jobless since August 5, the day the Union government revoked Kashmir’s special status. They are in shock; the other day, paramilitary troopers assaulted residents of the village for alleged “trivial matters”.