India’s Republic Day – Cricket time for Kashmir youth!

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Srinagar, Jan 27: Elsewhere in the mainland India while the youngsters were busy in celebrating the annual republic day, the youths here in Kashmir where getting prepared to have a day out with the cricket.
Since the inception of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, cricketers here get a field day to play cricket on these days as the days have been marked as ‘black days’ by the separatists who call for complete boycott of the celebrations like of Independence Day or Republic day to send a message that Kashmir is a disputed territory.
Saturday, was a very bright and a sunny day and Danish along with his 10 other friends were busy in collecting the bricks – not for pelting them on the security forces, but to erect the look alike of cricket wickets so that to play the cricket in the middle of the street near Bohri Kadal in the volatile downtown area.
Colossal groups of youngsters can be seen out in the streets on such occasions where Kashmir has been ordered to observe a shutdown. Though, upto the year 2008, being out on the streets on the dates of 26th January or 15th January was considered to be dangerous as youngsters wouldn’t risk to get caught by the eyes of the security forces, these days they prefer to go out on picnics or to have a field day to play cricket on the streets unlike the past years.
At many places in and around the downtown, groups of youngsters were seen busy in playing the cricket but, to give an impression that this is not an ordinary cricket and the complete shutdown is in force, youngsters often erect the wickets in the middle of the streets.
“This is not for the first time we are playing cricket on the streets on the Hartal days; we play such cricket every year. It is fun to play in the middle of the street,” says Danish, a collegiate, and captain of the five member cricket team.
Danish says, as Kashmir observes shutdown every year on this date, he and his friends have planned long back that they will play today in Bohri Kadal or otherwise they considered their home turf the streets of Rajouri Kadal.
“We collect 50 rupees from every player to bet the money on cricket,” he said.
The situation in the civil lines remains the same as due to the recent snowfall youngsters here have also thrown up themselves on the streets to play cricket.
“Due to the heavy snowfall that Kashmir valley received last week, we planned to play the cricket on the streets which often remain empty on the shutdown days,” said Inayat, a youth from Dalgate.
Inayat along with his friends have camped on one of the inside lanes of boulevard connecting Dalgate and Old Gagribal.
But their game today is filled with enthusiasm, as the parents of all the players, keep peeping through their windows after every minute to get updates about the scores, and also they cheer when any one of the players hits a six.
“Playing in the street is altogether a different experience. In the playground you won’t have your parents looking at you but here nervousness rules the roost among all of us,” said Mudassir, the captain of the other team whom Inayat considers as arch rivals.
“This is not something which we are doing for the first time. Our elders tell us that they also used to do same during the 1990’s when militancy was on peak in the Kashmir,” he added.
“It has become a part of our Kashmiri tradition to play cricket on 26th January or 15th August or any other Hartal Day as the Hartal has its own charm,” smiled Mudassir as he was readying himself to take his rivals head-on. “Since morning I have lost the bet of Rs 300 and I have to earn them back,” he added.

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