Life continues as usual in Lal Chowk

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Lal Chowk, Jan 25 (PTI) "It is unusually normal here,"says an office-goer at the historic Lal Chowk as theSrinagar''s commercial nerve centre bustles with activity,virtually unaffected by the high drama surrounding BJP''sproposed hoisting of national flag here tomorrow.

Zahid, a Srinagar resident who has an office in LalChowk, says he is used to seeing deserted streets in the cityahead of Republic Day and Independence Day in view ofheightened security arrangement over the past 20 years afterthe Valley was hit by militancy.

Shops and other business establishments are open andtraffic is plying normally in the city including in LalChowk where BJP wants to hoist the national flag tomorrowwhile the Jammu and Kashmir government is going all out toprevent the opposition party on the grounds that it can createa law and order problem in the Valley.

"It does not look like tomorrow is January 26," saysZahid while walking past the Clock Tower, which perhaps is theonly give-away as security forces have been deployed instrength around it to stop BJP activists or JKLF cadres, whohave vowed to stop them and unfurl their own flag.

For the first time a police unit has been deployednear the clock tower which is surrounded by three armouredvehicles of police and CRPF and a large posse of policemen.

Apart from security forces who are deployed in thevicinity of the clock tower, a large number of photo andvideo journalists are camping around the tower that has beenwitness to many rumblings over the past three years.

A senior police officer said there are no plans toimpose curfew in Maisuma locality, which is a stronghold ofJKLF chief Yasin Malik and lies in close proximity of LalChowk.

Malik, who is a former militant commander, has goneunderground and has vowed to go ahead with the proposed marchto Lal Chowk.

"There will be no curfew (in Maisuma)," a seniorpolice officer said.

Lal Chowk has seen many historic developmentsincluding speeches by first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehruand then Premier of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh MuhammadAbdullah.

The clock tower is currently undergoing another roundof renovation after it was severely damaged during aseparatist rally on Eidul Fitr on September 11 last year.

A group of BJP leaders led by Murli Manohar Joshi andNarender Modi, had on Republic Day in 1992 hoisted thenational flag there amidst tight security cover.

Thereafter, security forces took over the tower andconstructed a security picket around it, which was removedonly in 2007.

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