Unwire Us

Finally Srinagar Municipal Corporation mustered courage to seek Inspector General of CRPF’s intervention in ridding city of concertina wires. How CRPF is going to respond remains to be seen. The introduction of wires in Kashmir goes back to peak militancy days when pre-dawn crackdowns and irksome frisking were order of the day. And slowly Kashmir began to see wires in an entirely different context, signs of no go zones. It was 90’s and people hoped for a better tomorrow. But as world was transforming into a better connected wireless global village, Kashmir was slipping back into darkness. What changed was the name of wires from barbed to concertina. However, the lethality remained unchanged.

In 2012, a ten-year-old girl Muskaan Latief from Wazir Bagh was caught in concertina wire outside her house when chased by a pack of stray dogs. She received 10 stitches on her head. But Muskaan is not the only victim who was caught in the maze of razor sharp wires that are spread across the city. Almost all major roads in city are guarded by bunkers making movement of vehicles and pedestrians difficult. And these bunkers are guarded by rolls and rolls of concertina wire to keep any threat away. After 2008 mass movement against transfer of land to Amarnath Shrine Board, which saw people protesting on streets to get their voices heard, CRPF used concertina wires to stop movement and mobilization of civilians. Most of the roads were sealed by CRPF with heaps of wires putting lives of civilians at risk. After the protests were over CRPF didn’t bother to lift the siege of concertina wires and it slowly became part of peoples’ lives.

In last two and half decades of conflict, Kashmir is virtually turned into a garrison with every nook and corner guarded by men in uniform. The first thing one notices in Kashmir while coming from outside is the volume of armoured vehicles plying on roads meant for civilian traffic. And every now and then one has to make his way through concertina wired check posts where a single wrong cut can land you in mess. In recent past these wires have been a handy tool for authorities to keep civilians off the roads whenever the need arises.

With SMC making efforts to clear Srinagar of encroachments of all sorts including concertina wire occupying major part of vital transport routes, it is a welcome step.

Hope it is just the beginning. Rather than counting number of tourists arriving in Kashmir and passing it on as a sign of normalcy, it would be a good start if state could remove all bunkers and wires to help move freely in and around their localities. Otherwise with heaps of wires clogging city roads, it would be futile to hope that Srinagar could ever be a favoured tourist destination.

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