Traditionally, after offering Eid ul-Adha namaz, people of Kashmir say “Eid mubarak” to one another. Tomorrow, however, that symbolic gesture is a painful reminder of how little cause for joy there has been for the past two months. “When people are dying in the Valley on daily basis and we are living in perpetual fear of gun, how can this Eid be an occasion for celebration,” a 25-year-old Imtiyaz Assad said to Newslaundry. Assad, who lives in downtown Srinagar and runs a small electronic repair shop. “Due to curfew, my shop is shut since last 66 days. Though, even if I would have some money, I am not going to celebrate this Eid in respect of those who died fighting for azad Kashmir,” he vowed.
Like Assad, 38-year-old Muhammad Ashraf Bhat of old town Baramulla, has also not opened his small mobile repair shop since violence and protests gripped the Valley. “This is for the first time I haven’t bought new clothes for my two sons Ubaid Ashraf, 6, and Uzair Ashraf, 3,” he lamented. “Though Hurriyat calendar offers relaxation from 6 pm onwards, it matters little for my kind of business,” Ashraf said. “So, in a sense, I haven’t earned anything since the unrest began.”
Ashraf is planning to spend Eid austerely – one chicken for lunch. Even those who could be more lavish have chosen not to do so, in deference to the widespread suffering. Since this Eid is traditionally associated with a grand feast, food has become one of the sites of resistance.
In Baramulla, leaders of the protesting youth recently called a meeting of the mutton and chicken sellers and asked them not to open their shops for four days from September 10. This was done to discourage the consumption of the expensive non-vegetarian dishes, an Eid specialty.
Across Srinagar too, the markets which used to buzz with crowds of Eid shoppers, wore a deserted look. Even private transport was absent. “The Eid rush used to start a week before the festival,” said Ghulam Muhammad who runs a shoe shop in Lal Chowk, in Srinagar. “Now, neither shops are open, nor shoppers are visible”.
A few days earlier, Lal Chowk and the adjacent markets were open in the evenings. However, the death of the two young men in South Kashmir on September 10 worsened the situation. Just when shopkeepers tried to raise their shutters, protestors asked them to shut them down, as a mark of protest.
For the business community in Kashmir, this has been a huge loss. “On routine days, we lose around Rs 135 crore every day, but during Eid days, we are losing Rs 200 crore a day,” Muhammad Yaseen Khan, chairperson of the Kashmir Economic Alliance told Newslaundry. “But business community is doing it voluntarily. If we have shut down our businesses, it is to force some resolution of the Kashmir issue. We can’t continue with this uncertain state of affairs.”
Khan said that it was for the first time that Eid celebrations are so subdued. “I don’t remember ever in my life that the shops were closed in the run up to Eid or that Kashmiris will observe shutdown even on Eid,” he said.
The number of nomads who used to sell sacrificial animals for Eid has drastically gone down this year. “Most of them had returned to their respective places. There are very few buyers this year,” Khan said.
Meanwhle, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has given a call for azadi march on Eid-ul-Adha. “Celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with austerity; jointly offer qurbani (sacrifice) and have joint community lunch; Resistance/Masjid Committees of every mohallah and locality should ensure the arrangements,” reads the APHC’s instruction. The APHC has also asked religious leaders to read a “Let’s pledge” message before namaz that contains an appeal to Kashmiris for continuing their fight for azad Kashmir and to boycott all pro-occupation parties and leaders, elections, election rallies and election machinery.
APHC’s statement goes on to say locals should march towards Central Eidgahs at District Tehsil and Town levels after offering offering namaz (Hurriyat has fixed 8.30am as the time for Eid ul-Adha namaz across the Valley). The locals of Srinagar will then march towards United Nations’ office to submit a memorandum that is to be conveyed to the 71st Session of General Assembly of United Nations, starting on September 13.
During the march, Hurriyat has asked people to carry flags, banners and placards with slogans like “We want freedom” and “Go India go back”. It has further asked that Eid celebrations be kept low key. Hurriyat’s latest calendar has called for the shutdown and protests from September 9 to September 16, with daily shutdown up to 6 pm.
The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government, in consensus with the Centre, is not willing to take any chance by relaxing curfew for Eid-ul-Adha namaz. At the time of writing, the J&K police had ordered the shutdown of all mobile and network services for the next 72 hours, including BSNL broadband services. However, BSNL voice calling services are yet operational. It’s evident that the government is taking all the precautions it can.
With the Valley seeing one of the worst crises it has known in its history, the goodwill and prayers for wellbeing that are an integral part of Eid traditions are perhaps more critically important than ever before.
(with inputs from Riyaz-ur-Rehman)