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In Jammu, a tangled tale is written in blood

August 09, 2008
What was started by politicians for electoral gains has metastasized into an issue of regional pride as Jammu, neglected for decades, demands its due and demands it now.

The area is completely deserted. The authorities have been using the curfew to test the popular temperature. Thus, on Thursday, it was first lifted from 5 am to 9 am, then extended to 11 am before being clamped again. On Friday, it was lifted at 5 am, and gradually extended till 1 pm.

While on the surface this might suggest a return to normalcy, there is the underlying sense that this is merely the calm before a cataclysmic storm. Though the army has managed to put down the violent protests, it is now facing a different sort of problem: the friendly neighbourhood protestor.

The phenomenon starts around sunset, gathers momentum as darkness pervades, and ends abruptly around 7 pm. Here is what happens:

Though people honour the curfew, at around 5.30 pm they start trickling out of their homes. At first, this happens in groups of two and three, say two elderly women stepping out of their gates for a harmless evening stroll or a couple of youngsters shooting the breeze. Since they confine themselves to their residential lanes, the army personnel stationed on every main road of the city leaves them alone, though they know this casual borderline defiance of the curfew is just a beginning.

As the minutes tick away, the number of people out on the streets swell; gradually, women and children appear in increasing numbers, and then the men begin to join in. Suddenly, what was an isolated evening walk has become a crowd of about 60, 70 people.

And then an anonymous hoarse voice yells 'Bam Bam..' The crowd responds with a full throated 'Bole!'

Image: Protestors throw stones at policemen during curfew.

Text: Krishnakumar P in Jammu | Photographs: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: Jammu's Hindu uprising

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