Ahead of titular clash between arch rivals India and Pakistan at the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 finals today, officials in Kashmir are on their toes for any eventuality. Authorities admit that they will have a problem on hand irrespective of who wins the title at the Lords.
Restrictions on movement of people are already in place in areas falling under five police station areas in Srinagar's Old City after the protests following the killing of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Junaid Mattoo in Arwani encounter on Friday. Although the separatists have not called any shutdown or protest on Sunday, the restrictions have been placed as a precautionary measure.
But the India-Pakistan match has posed fresh challenge for authorities as tensions traditionally run high in the Kashmir Valley whenever India and Pakistan meet each other in a sporting event. Old City Srinagar has always been considered a hotbed of pro-Pakistan sentiments.
But given the present volatile law and order situation, authorities fear the result either way could have an adverse fallout on the ground.
"It has unfortunately never been taken in the true spirit of sports in Kashmir. Whenever India and Pakistan clash, we have had law and order issues here," said an intelligence officer who wished to remain anonymous.
"The problem is not who wins. Either way, the result is a cause of concern for us," the official added.
Indeed, very few in the Kashmir Valley treat an India-Pakistan match as a sporting event.
"A cricket match between India and Pakistan has always stirred passions here. It was the same when I was a child and it is the same when I am 62 years old now," said Muhammad Ashraf Bhat, who has been a Ranji Trophy player and is now a selector for the national event.
"The difference, however, is that the reactions then were less aggressive," Bhat told IANS.
Bhat added that Kashmiris have been great admirers of Indian cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and others in the past, yet their sympathies have always been with Pakistan during sporting clashes between the two sides.
Two international cricket matches have been played in Srinagar at the Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium.
The first was between India and the West Indies on October 13, 1983 and the second between India and Australia on September 6, 1986.
Spectators rushed into the middle of the ground and dug up the pitch during the first event and cheered India's defeat by raising anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans in the second event.
After separatist violence started in Kashmir in early 1989-90, tempers began to soar during India-Pakistan sporting clashes.
People have poured out in hundreds on the streets in jubilation whenever Pakistan won a match against India.
After 1990, the other addition to this rush of blood has been youths engaging the security forces in clashes whenever Pakistan loses an event to India.
That certainly remains a major problem for the authorities in the troubled Valley.
(With IANS inputs)