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regular-article-logo Saturday, 18 May 2024

Kashmir: ‘Never seen before’ New Year celebrations in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk

Hundreds, including local people and tourists, joined the celebrations in the city square, singing and clapping to the tunes of Bollywood songs. The venue was given a dazzling look

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 02.01.24, 05:35 AM
People gather at the clock tower Lal Chowk to attend a musical show to celebrate the new year 2024, in Srinagar, Sunday, December 31.

People gather at the clock tower Lal Chowk to attend a musical show to celebrate the new year 2024, in Srinagar, Sunday, December 31. PTI picture.

A large crowd converged on Srinagar’s famed Lal Chowk or Red Square on Sunday night to celebrate New Year, giving the government a reason to smile but triggering a debate whether the event was genuine and whether it befitted post-2019 Kashmir.

Such events bolster the government’s all-is-well narrative, which has by and large not found many takers in Kashmir.

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The government’s tourism department organised events at major tourist destinations including Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam on Sunday night.

Hundreds, including local people and tourists, joined the celebrations in the city square, singing and clapping to the tunes of Bollywood songs. The venue was given a dazzling look.

Srinagar municipal commissioner (SMC) Athar Aamir Ali was prompt to call it a “never before” event in Kashmir.

“This is #SrinagarSquare, #LalChowk right now! A city life never seen before. The celebration, the vibrancy like never before!” Athar said on X.

“This is probably the biggest alibi to the transformation that Srinagar city has witnessed with the implementation of #SrinagarSmartCity projects! Immensely proud of my #SrinagarSmartCity & #SMC team for making this happen!”

Rajendra Tiwari, director of the Rajya Sabha secretariat, who was at the event, hailed the “enthusiasm” of “children, young and old”.

“I had heard that there have been a lot of changes after the scrapping of Article 370. I wanted to see the change with my own eyes. I have come to Srinagar to celebrate New Year with this purpose,” he told a local news agency.

“I was delighted. I feel proud about my country and the fact that Kashmir is part of my country”.

Many others including politician Sajad Lone congratulated the administration for a “very rare and distinctive show in Lal Chowk”.

“We as a race are sad by temperament. Sad cloudy days, sad colours, sad songs and even sadder politics. This was a welcome getaway. Music, festivities and a young crowd looking forward to a less-sadder 2024,” Lone said on X.

Many others, however, appeared either surprised by the event or questioned its genuineness.

“While Kashmir was watching this drama unfold on social media, the low-income tourists from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, of whom most were drunk as hell were dancing to some cheap Bhojpuri & Punjabi music performed by some unrecognised artists on city street. The J&K administration called it a New Year Bash,” a People’s Democratic Party spokesman posted on X, sharing a video of the event showing outsiders.

Others asked whether such an event was apt for Kashmir, having lost its special status and being reduced to a Union Territory.

“Our character, conduct and ethical standards are being questioned, and rightfully so,” said a social media user.

Although the crowd was relatively decent by Kashmir’s standards, it was a normal winter day for most in the Valley.

Away from the hubbub at the city centre, most Kashmiris spent the night in their homes, battling a bitter cold. On Sunday night, Srinagar experienced a temperature of -5.2 degrees Celsius.

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