On the picturesque Foreshore road surrounding the Dal Lake in Srinagar stands Arshid, a sheep trader with his herd of twenty. The plump sheep are ready to be sold to families for Qurbani, the ritualistic animal sacrifice on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, but Arshid isn’t optimistic about business.
“Families, who used to buy three sheep, are now buying only one. Our rates have not decreased but we will end up selling less number of animals,” says Arshid as he whistles to the herd to not go astray. The fattest in the herd is up for sale at Rs 15,000.
Another sheep trader, Sahil Safiq, from the Barbar Shah area of Srinagar, said, “Because of the situation, the spirit to celebrate Eid has been dampened. And, hence, business is completely down.”
The situation he is talking of is a two-month-long streak of violence that has enveloped the Valley following the killing of insurgent leader Burhan Wani. Clashes with security forces has killed 75 people by unofficial estimates and left 10,000 injured.
In the middle of the turmoil, Kashmiris feel this year’s Eid al-Adha celebrations on Tuesday in Muslim-majority Valley will be lacklustre, without the usual liveliness and exuberance.
Families that HT spoke to explained the reasons behind why Eid will be “no Eid at all for Kashmir”.
Firstly, they say the violence which has killed and injured people over the past two months left a deep impact on the psyche of the larger population.
As this resident of the old city Srinagar explains, “I bought three sheep for my extended family on Saturday only to come home and hear thdat two young men have been killed by security forces. I became sad and asked myself how can Kashmir celebrate Eid in such times?”
“My family has decided to purchase only one sheep and give the rest of the budgeted money to charity, probably to the injured at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital where victims of state-sponsored violence are being treated,” said a woman from the old city.
Secondly, state-imposed curfew and the separatist’s shutdown call have resulted in a clampdown on markets and festival shopping is taking place with much difficulty, if at all.
“Usually, the shopping starts four-five days before Eid. But look at what’s happening now? Markets are shut, there are restrictions, people can’t move and children are asking their parents why we aren’t getting new dresses?” says Shuja Ahmad, a Srinagar resident and a bank employee.
“We do not even know what will be the situation on the day of the Eid. There can be very strict curfew. This is the first time in my lifetime that I am seeing such a situation,” says Ahmad.
At 6pm in the evening, as the 12-hour-long ‘relaxation’ of the shutdown begins, Srinagar lights up. Traffic snarls occur on most roads, people throng shops and buy the essentials for Eid. But on Saturday evening, even with the ‘relaxation’, most shops did not open in protest against the killing of two men earlier in the day.
Shopkeepers say that the crowd during ‘relaxation period’ has increased in the last four days as Eid was approaching. But the shopping trends are far less than those of other years.
“Eid is an occasion of ‘khushi’ (happiness), but how can we celebrate when there is no ‘khushi’ at all in the region. Yes, businesses have suffered, but as we have been saying, all that takes a back seat in view of the civilian killings, blinding and maiming,” says Mushatq Ahmad Wani, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
Thirdly, people say the Qurbani meat is supposed to be distributed to relatives but that’s not possible because most areas in Kashmir can’t be accessed in the current situation. People will distribute the meat to the relatives who live nearby and not to those in far off areas of the Valley.
Meanwhile, the joint separatist leadership of Kashmir has called for shutdown on the day of Eid, with 12-hour relaxation from 6pm. It has also called for an “Azadi March” towards local Eidgahs at every area and a march towards the United Nations office for submitting a memorandum.
“Celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with austerity; jointly offer Qurbani and have joint community lunch,” the protest calendar said, adding: “Imams and Khateebs before Namaz will read “Let’s pledge” Message to continue our struggle for freedom.”