Ghanta Ghar: From Clocks To Flags


By Fahad Shah

A concrete clock tower stands still in this nippy winter of Kashmir. Ghanta Ghar has become a political crag which many political climbers want to ascent. Some energetic but anti-India youth succeeded last summer. They left a coloured tower like a blind dresses a doll. Different shades of political symbols; in which shade of Kashmir lost somewhere. A look to tower reminded me of houses in the H. G. Wells short story, The Country of the Blind.

I quote some lines of the story about houses: “They were parti-coloured with extraordinary irregularity, smeared with a sort of plaster that was sometimes grey, sometimes drab, sometimes slate-coloured or dark brown; and it was the sight of this wild plastering first brought the word “blind” into the thoughts of the explorer.”

Winter brought the tower in focus again. Wearing a bamboo scaffold as it is under renovation. Look around. Hardly any shopkeeper is at your disposal. Only at one corner of footpath just near the Titan watch showroom, a hot Rista (a Kashmiri Wazwaan dish) vendor sits at ease. The park at the centre of the hub of Srinagar, Lal Chowk is chockfull by state forces and journalists.

Nose for news has brought journalists here: leaving their cosy warmth back home in this winter cold. More than 4000 Central Reserve Police Forces along with other agencies are guarding the clock tower. Outside Broadcasting (OB) vans from almost all media houses are joining tails one after other around the concrete park which is nicknamed as “Carbon Park”. Carbon stands for the emissions from vehicles on road around. The OB inhabitants are landing in the park. None among present or at home can imagine what would happen next moment. All had a probing expression. Looking around was hideous.

“Tension”, as my friend standing next to me told, “is in air”.

It was dusk after a bright-sunny-day. A civilian may be suspected of either a pro-freedom worker or a Bhartiya Janata Party cadet. Both have been challenging head-to-head to each other to hoist their desirable flags on the tower.

Who will win? Who will make it to tower? What if anyone will try?

Of course four-thousand trained and armed persons will act: journalists too. Bamboos may be opted. Perhaps, flag wavers will be beaten up and then whisked away in roughly stained white gypsies of police. Probably, they will be asked why you want to hoist flag.

“Don’t you know we do it at 400 different places of Kashmir on every August 15 and January 26?”

If no one could make it around tower: what then?

Certainly, still there will be news. “No flag hoisting at Lal Chowk.” Some may be eagerly waiting to see either of the two parties waving a flag on top of tower. There hopes will sink in the ponds of dislike to both the competitors.

When I was about to leave from this “most important” venue I met a friend. A local photojournalist who said, “How can it be so that anyone will dare to even step into Lal Chowk?

Everything around is sealed.”

“When are you going home?” I enquired.

“Not now. We will stay till late evening.”

“Ok fine. I am leaving. Bye.”

I left from this heavy secured zone. I am going home.

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