Truce on borders cheers Kashmiris
With violence lessening, Kashmiri Muslims have been crowding markets to shop for Eid al-Adha.india Updated: Jan 31, 2004 21:00 IST
Taking advantage of a ceasefire on Kashmir's borders and lessening violence inside the region, Kashmiri Muslims have been crowding markets to shop for Islam's second biggest festival of Eid al-Adha on Monday.
In Srinagar, nomads and shepherds were doing a thriving trade in goats, sheep and cattle, while many Muslims were seen leading animals home to be slaughtered during the allotted period from Monday to Wednesday noon.
The holiday honours the prophet Abraham for being ready to sacrifice his son Ishmael, on the order of God, who was testing his faith. According to the Quran, the Muslim holy book, when Abraham raised his dagger toward his son, the archangel Gabriel offered a lamb in Ishmael's place.
The holiday also marks the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Muslims around the world slaughter millions of sheep, goat and cattle to pay tribute to Abraham's devotion to God.
"I have brought these sheep from Rajouri to sell them here," said nomad Ehtishamu Din.
Din, from Rajouri district, said his business has been good and the ceasefire had allowed him to graze his animals along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides the scenic Himalayan region between the rivals India and Pakistan.
"I and my fellow colleagues have been able to graze the cattle at places where we never used to venture before the ceasefire," he said.
The Indian and Pakistani militaries have been observing a ceasefire since November 26, which marked Muslim's biggest festival Eid ul-fitr at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Since the ceasefire and a slew of initiatives taken by India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue, violence has lessened in the region that has been in the grip of an anti-Indian insurgency since 1989 that has left thousands dead.
"There has been a definite reduction in violence," said Rukiaya Akhter, 28, a school-teacher who was buying chicken for the festival. Akhter carefully examined the chicks for diseases like bird flu before buying three of them.
Despite the relative peace, rebels and Indian troops say the ceasefire does not apply to them, and India has turned down calls by moderate separatists to announce a unilateral truce in Kashmir on Eid as a 'goodwill gesture'.
A moderate faction of the region's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, held first ever high level talks with Indian leaders on January 22 which were sealed with a joint call for an end to violence in Kashmir.
The positive developments saw Kashmiris putting aside their fears of violence and flocking to pastry shops and mutton kiosks to stock up on food for special Eid meals.
Most confectionery and bakery shops ran out of stocks almost immediately as people queued up even before their doors opened.
"All my stocks are exhausted," said Nazir Ahmed, who owns Cakehouse shop in Srinagar. "Every day we have scores of fresh orders and people it seems want to take full advantage of lessened tensions."
The wealthy have been going from shop to shop to select the best dresses for their children, while the poor have bought second-hand garments from a temporary market set up ahead of the festival.
"I have sold 50 jackets since this morning," said second-hand clothing trader Maqsood Ahmed. "We are doing good business."
Separatists every year appeal for people to spend less during the festival out of respect for those who have lost their lives to the insurgency.
Young girls, meanwhile, were seen queuing up at Srinagar's beauty parlours in order to look their best for the festival.
First Published: Jan 31, 2004 21:00 IST