Srinagar, March 5 (IANS): 54-year old Hassan Parray does not buy a local newspaper nor tunes to the Urdu service of the BBC anymore.
Living in a foothill hamlet in a north Kashmir district, Parray works in a government department. His over 30-year long tryst with the local newspapers and the Urdu service of the BBC remained vital to his survival instinct as an average Kashmiri.
“The local newspaper would tell me whether I had to go to the office on that day or not. Shutdown calls given by the separatist leaders and groups would be prominently carried by the local newspapers.
“Buying a local newspaper was a necessity to know whether the offices would function or whether public transport would be available on a particular day.
“In the evenings, I would faithfully tune to the Urdu service of the BBC. There I would get an account of the day’s violent incidents across the state.
“So many killed in encounters, so many killed by militants, so many killed in cross firing, so many disappeared into thin areas. This or that area was brought under curfew. All these details I would come to know by listening to the evening bulletin of BBC’s Urdu service.
“Since there are no shutdowns and public protests now nor do the offices stop working because of law and order situation, I decided not to buy the local newspapers anymore.
“Violence, killings, curfews and disappearances are not the rule anymore. So there is no need to bother with the BBC in the evening,” Parray said smilingly while justifying his parting ways with newspapers and news bulletins about violence.
For the last over two years, he has not missed his duties other than on Sundays, public holidays or when he chose to remain on leave.
Life for him and his family has virtually returned to routine as it has for hundreds of other common Kashmiris like him.
Interestingly, he has again started viewing the local TV and listening to the local Radio station.
“There was no question of viewing the TV in the evenings. Our ears had got trained to listen to gunfire around or away from our village.
“Then there was the fear of the official crackdowns or the dread of the militants knocking at the door for nocturnal shelter.
“My family sleeps in peace and we are no longer bothered about the security forces or the militants knocking at our doors now.
“To realise how much difference that makes in your life, you have to face the tensions and troubles we have been through during the last over 30 years,” he says.
He listens to the local Radio station to know about various developmental works going on in his district or simply to listen to Kashmiri music and other entertainment programmes.
What is true about Parray is also true about other common Kashmiris whose focus from bare survival has now shifted to education for children, better healthcare and to increase their income to live a better life.
Not that sporadic incidents of violence do not still occur in the Valley. But, these are now exceptions rather than the rule.
It is because of the modicum of normalcy that has returned to the Valley that over one lakh tourists visited Kashmir during the previous month.
This had not happened for many decades since 1990, said officials of the local tourism department.
Trying to make up for the lost time, Kashmiris in large numbers have been visiting tourist resorts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg and other such places.
Officials said while a record number of domestic and foreign tourists visited Kashmir last year, the number of locals visiting places of tourist interest was not any less last year.
Peace remained fragile in Kashmir during the last three decades. The good news is that during the last three years, peace has had more takers than those who want to disturb it.