JAMMU AND KASHMIR: For three long decades there was no nightlife in Kashmir as the shops, restaurants and other establishments used to close early due to the fear of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and the separatists.
However, during the past three years Kashmir has witnessed the revival of nightlife as terrorists and Pakistan stooges, who were active in the Valley, stand cornered and their ability to run a parallel system has been dismantled.
The abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, paved the way for restoring the pristine glory of Kashmir. The bold decision taken by the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, integrated the region completely with the Union of India and ended the hegemony of the anti-peace elements.
As of date, volatile areas of Srinagar
‘s old city are buzzing with activities till late in the night. Youth are playing football and cricket in floodlit stadiums till midnight. The fear and threat that used to prevail with the sunset have disappeared.
Terrorists carrying guns and grenades can’t be seen anywhere as the security forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police have cut them to size. There are no more grenade attacks or cross-firings. Neither there are shutdowns nor stone-pelting incidents.
Normalcy returning to Kashmir has led to a common man heaving a sigh of relief. He is performing his daily chores in a peaceful environment. The revival of nightlife has led to the business establishments remaining open till late hours which has enhanced the sales and profit margins of the business people.
The J-K tourism department during the past three years has worked hard to make sure that tourists don’t have to shut themselves in the hotels after 8pm. The shikaras and the houseboats in Dal lake have been illuminated and many tourists are seen taking their dream ride in Dal Lake during the night hours. All the lights installed on the shikaras are solar power-based and eco-friendly.
The moving shikaras with their illuminated lights shine like jewels in the Dal Lake. The move has increased the working hours of shikara owners, which means more business for them.
Activities like heritage tours, craft exhibitions, night skiing, have added a new dimension to the nightlife in Kashmir. The hotels, restaurants and street food joints which used to pull down the shutters at dusk remain open till midnight with people thronging these places in hordes.
Last year J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha inaugurated Inox, the first multiplex of Kashmir, where cinema halls were forced to shut in the early 1990s soon after the terrorists sponsored by Pakistan appeared on the streets of the Valley.
The Inox, which was earlier known as Broadway cinema, at Sonawar in Srinagar has a total seating capacity of 520 people and consists of three movie theatres. Two multipurpose cinema halls were also opened up at Pulwama and Shopian in South Kashmir. The government has set a target to establish cinema halls in every district of J&K.
In Kashmir, nearly a dozen stand-alone cinema halls were functioning till the late 1980s including in rural townships, but they were forced to close down in the early 1990s. Though authorities made attempts to reopen some of the theatres in the late 1990s, the same was thwarted after terrorists carried out a deadly grenade attack on Regal Cinema in the heart of Lal Chowk in September 1999, killing one person on the day the theatre was reopened.
Two other theatres — Neelam and Broadway — also opened in high-security areas of Srinagar but were closed again. The cinema halls like Firdous, Sheeraz, Neelam, Broadway, Khayam, Samad Talkies, Regina, Shahkar etc. were a major source of entertainment in the yesteryears.
As the threat perception is waning, the modes of entertainment like cinema halls are returning.
Notably, former political regimes did not show the will to revive the nightlife in Kashmir. Politicians, who ruled J&K till the scrapping of J&K’s so-called special status, it seems were happy with Kashmir remaining disturbed and the agents of Pakistan dictating terms to people.
The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has proven beyond doubt that strong leaders can take bold decisions for the benefit of the masses. The Centre since 2019 has ensured that the people of Jammu and Kashmir get every facility which is available to all the citizens across the country.
A common man has become a priority in “Naya Jammu and Kashmir” and the government has done everything for him to become an important stakeholder in peace. The people-centric decisions of the present dispensation have made J&K denizens part and parcel of the development, peace and prosperity.
The government has focused on eliminating terror and dismantling the terror ecosystem. Terrorist supporters as of date stand isolated and cornered, whereas the peace-loving people have embarked on the journey of development.
During the past three decades, public transport used to disappear from the streets of Srinagar soon after dusk. This issue was taken up by the people again and again with the former political dispensations. But the former rulers cited violence as a reason for public transport not remaining available during the evening hours. Under public pressure, some half-hearted attempts were made in the past but all of them ended up in a fiasco.
Earlier this month, divisional commissioner Kashmir, Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, convened a meeting of officers to plan the induction of J&K Road Transport Corporation (RTC) buses for night transport services in Srinagar city.
These buses have been made available on the major routes of the city with clear-cut directions to operate till 10pm at night. By inducting its own buses the government has sent a clear message to the private transporters that they can no longer decide whether the night services will run or not. It is after 30 years that night bus services have returned to Srinagar city and the people have welcomed the move.
In Naya Jammu and Kashmir, youth are free to carry on with their activities till late hours by participating in sports events which are held in every corner of the city. Tourists have been provided with the option to explore Kashmir rather than getting locked in their hotels. Families can go for outings during late hours, shopkeepers, restaurant owners and street vendors can carry on with their businesses till late without any threats, fear and intimidation, and movie lovers can visit cinema halls.
It is a welcome change that the people have witnessed after the scrapping of Article 370, a temporary provision in the Constitution, which acted as a big stumbling block in Jammu and Kashmir’s progress.