By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, March 23 (IANS) The public response to the lockdown for 14 hours in the Valley due to coronavirus scare was similar to what has been seen here in the last 32 years when separatists gave calls for ‘civil curfew or authorities imposed ‘official curfew.
While most of the 12.5 lakh residents in Srinagar as well as those in other major towns in the Valley remained indoors during the ‘Janata Curfew’, dozens of youths were out playing cricket the whole day in Srinagar’s Polo Ground.
Enforcing authorities did not intervene to send these diehard cricketer fans home.
In the evening, people came out in large numbers in Srinagar and other towns to buy essential commodities. Many motorists too hit the road like they used to do in the evenings for last many years when mandated curfew hours would end.
“Will the coronavirus go after remaining indoors just from these morning to evening hours? Who are we trying to deceive?” asked local doctor Khurshid Ahmad.
While authorities declared a public holiday in the union territory till Wednesday and decided to continue with restrictions imposed in all 10 districts of the Valley, motorists, bikers and pedestrians were seen moving around in Sant Nagar, Rawalpora, Hyderpora and other so-called civil lines areas of Srinagar on Monday.
“At these places, life appeared normal today,” said Ashok Koul, who was on way to Srinagar airport to catch a flight to join his family in Jammu.
Police have been using loudspeakers to ask people to abide by restrictions since these are for public welfare only, but the response of most Kashmiris has been as if these are similar to restrictions imposed in the past to maintain public order.
Although the number of devotees in various mosques in the rural areas of the Valley has come down, yet congregational prayers are still being held across the Valley despite an advisory to people not to gather in small or large numbers at any place.
Authorities have also launched a manhunt to trace those locals who reportedly arrived here from abroad, but did not disclose their travel history to escape isolation.
Given the nonchalant response of the people, well-meaning intentions of the authorities to keep people indoors amid the coronavirus scare would be defeated unless harsher measures are adopted.