Valley of unrest

Violence dampens spirit of Eid in Kashmir

INDIA-KASHMIR/ Kashmiri women react as they watch people carry away a coffin containing the body of Abdul Qayoom, who was killed in a clash with security forces | Reuters

Every year, Muhammad Saleem, a bank employee, and his wife Nyla would start preparations for the Eid well in advance. The couple would go on a shopping spree and their kids—a boy, and a girl—would get new clothes, footwear and toys. Nyla would also pick new drapings and upholstery for their house. But all the pleasure has gone this year. Even the kids, Saleem says, are least excited about the festival.

Violence and indefinite protests for more than two months sparked by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and his two associates on July 8 have dampened the mood across the state.

"Money is not an issue," Saleem says. "We are just not in the right frame of mind... What is there to celebrate?” he laments.

Concurs Abdul Senu of Karan Nagar. "None of my family members has died in the two-month uprising, but it has had a deep impact on us," Rashid says. His wife wanted to buy new clothes for their children but later dropped the idea.

Rehana Tabassum, a mother of three, at Lal Bazar says her brother, who works in the UK, would send gifts to her kids on Eid. But this year, she has asked him not to send anything.

Shahana, a school teacher in Srinagar, says most of her colleagues have not done any shopping for this Eid.

"Normally, my kids would want everything new on Eid, but this year they have been patient,” says Shahana. "We will keep it a low-key affair, because so many people have been martyred."

The mood in the bazaars of Srinagar and other districts too is somber. The air of festivity that would grip the markets during the festival is missing this year.

Tariq Ahmed Sofi, who runs a bakery at Kani Kadal, says his workers would use several tons of flour to prepare pastries and confectioneries every year on Eid.

"Everything would disappear from our shop a day before Eid," he says. "This year our workers have left Kashmir, and people are not keen to celebrate with great fanfare."

Mutton and chicken dealers have also not beefed up their stocks.

"There has been no business for the last two months," says Arif Pampori, a mutton dealer at Guru Bazar. "It has never been this much bad in my entire life; killings and curfew have played a spoilsport."

Most of the kothdaars (mutton dealers), he says, have reconciled to the situation, as have most shopkeepers across Kashmir.

Several businessmen say they are ready to endure losses because they can't think of profits when people die and families lose their breadwinners.

The large flock of sacrificial animals, mostly sheep, which used to be a recurring site across the markets and bus stands in Kashmir, is missing this year and a very few shepherds are offering sheep for sale in Srinagar.

Several people fear that the Eid congregations may turn into processions and lead to violence like in 2010. In 2010 uprising, hundreds of people took out a procession and converged at the historic Lal Chowk. The protesters had set on fire a government building at Exhibition crossing.

The government has already mobilised army in south Kashmir—Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, and Shopian—that has emerged as the epicentre of the present uprising.

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