by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: On September 22, 2020, at around 9:45 pm Srinagar residents were preparing for dinner. Some had actually dined. Suddenly tremor waves shook the houses and they came out on roads. Panic gripped everywhere and there was a rush of phones. The nature of jolt was not confirmed yet. Some called it an earthquake and some air blast.
To confirm what it actually was, the people started scanning social media. There were various posts which had gone viral. Nobody knew exactly what it was all about. Confusion persisted.
Shortly after journalists dialled Sonam Lotus, Kashmir’s most popular weatherman ever. “I do not know what it is but it was not an earthquake,” Sonam told some reporters. His audio message went viral on different social media platforms. Users of social media developed several memes and sarcastic lines on twitter and Facebook.
Statement of Lotus reinforced the belief that it was not an earthquake but something linked to detonation and explosives or the air blast. Somebody created a hybrid word on twitter quickly – airquake!
Earthquake has been accused to have occurred in #Kashmir with epicentre closer to #Srinagar. Allegedly it was shallow with more focus on air rather than earth. Technically, it has been named as Airquake.
— Ikhlaq Qadri (@SyedIkhlaqQadri) September 22, 2020
However, sometime later Sonam said that “it was an earthquake with a magnitude of 3.6 and its epicentre was in Srinagar”. Details suggested that tectonic shift had taken place around 5 km under Srinagar. After assessing and investigating things, it is now proved that the earthquake has taken place at Mujgund.
A resident of the village, located in the city periphery said it looked like doomsday. “I simply opened the window and jumped out,” Arif Ahmad said. “It was frightening and I think the older constructions might have cracks.”
Even though scientifically proved, the situation surrounding the tremors made it a controversial happening. People from different professions questioned the nature of this earthquake.
Statements and counter statements by officials made this earthquake a controversial one. “I felt tremors but my friend who lives in Pulwama did not felt it! How is it possible?” asked Khalid Bashir.
Discussion on a question whether it was an earthquake or air blast goes on for hours. It still goes on.
This is not the first time when people questioned such events. Since the insurgency, hundreds of incidents have happened in the valley. In most of the cases, in which officials were involved, go unnoticed and untraced. This has changed the psychology of people and forced netizens to assume everything as a trick.
The events over the years have generated mass hysteria and created a trust deficit in the public psyche.
The crisis in society is that people avoid trusting anything. They say they have a history of distrust and in the recent days it started in July 2019 when everybody from Delhi to Srinagar said: “nothing is happening – no worries”.
On August 2019, when the central government was about to read down the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, rumours gripped Kashmir. As if people were sure that some unusual and unpredicted is about to happen. Kashmiri word Dapan (it is being said) was trending on social media till August 4. However, the then governor SP Malik told media: “No changes in constitutional provisions expected”. Governor did not stop there but he blamed politicians for panic in the valley. But the reality was something else.
On next day these rumours come true and unexpected happened. Mobile internet, calling facilities as well as some television channels were blocked. It was a complete blackout which remained implemented for months. Home Minister Amit Shah announced that special status is no more!
It was a similar situation on the so-called braid chopping incidents in 2017. There was hue and cry from every part of the erstwhile state. Womenfolk who were the exclusive victims of these incidents claimed that some men came and chopped the braid and jumped out of the window. Almost 50 cases were reported but it remained a mystery.
Kashmir being a conflict zone goes through encounters and killings on daily basis. Many encounters turned into fake and it again impacted on the psychology of people.
The Amshipora ‘encounter’ is the recent happening. Army said three militants were killed. Locals said they suspected it from day one. Eventually, they were vindicated as the slain trio are now being confirmed as the Rajouri labourers who had come to Shopian to earn their livelihoods.
These all events over the years have made people into beings who suffer from trust deficits. The even take announcements by the government at mere face value and question even the welfare issues.