ONE RECENT MORNING, I stepped out of my house in southern Srinagar and stood by the desolate road for a while. The emptiness seemed to make the road expansive until my eyes met a thick coil of barbed wire blocking the road. CRPF and Kashmir police personnel patrolled the area, guns slung over their shoulders, bamboo canes in hand. Military infrastructure is a common sight in Kashmir, yet what was most striking—and has been for the past three months—was the silence. The silence that curfew imposes is the loudest sound you hear in Kashmir today, louder than the burst of teargas guns and bullets. Behind the silence, behind the half open doors, a population seethes and then breaks the curfew every now and then until the uniforms fire again and the number of the dead, 99 by now, increases.
In the besieged valley, a shortage of groceries and life saving drugs is growing. Parents are struggling to find milk for infants. As the shadows of the day lengthen, a distressed population peeps out of windows looking for an elusive relaxation in the iron-fisted curfew. Instead, their ears meet the harsh warnings from the police patrol loudspeakers asking them to stay indoors.
Several friends called to say they were running out of all food supplies. An acquaintance in Bemina, a part of old Srinagar, who suffers from a cardiac element has run out of medicine and is experiencing severe palpitations and shivers. Worried about the trend, I called an uncle, a senior doctor. “People suffering from cardiac problems and hypertension are dying in their homes for the lack of access to hospitals and life saving drugs like anti-coagulents, anti-hypertensive drugs,” he said. One of his neighbours in an Anantnag village died last week of hypoglycemia; she couldn’t be taken to the district hospital a few miles away.