The Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha will be celebrated across the country on Tuesday, but in the Kashmir Valley it will remain a low-key affair with authorities mulling to impose Section 144 amid fears of widespread protests.
The markets would usually be decked up in the valley before Eid. The rush of shoppers would peak in the last three days, but this time there is no such thing visible on the ground. Also, the loss of business due to separatist strike has dulled the spirit of the people.
Jan Mohammad, the owner of the ‘Hollywood Bakery’ in the heart of Srinagar city, Lal Chowk, used to sell at least five hundred kilos of bakery items for three days leading to Eid-al-Adha. Bakery products, which are traditionally consumed in plenty during the festival, have no takers this year.
“On average we have sold less than hundred kilos during relaxation time, the famous bakery shops like 'Gee Enn Bakery,' 'Maghul Darbar' and 'Ahdoos', who sell 20 times more than us have not even opened the shutters of their shops,” Mohammad told Firstpost.
Separatist groups have urged people to celebrate the festival with "simplicity and austerity," and people in Srinagar and other districts have reconciled to keeping the biggest festival of the year as a low-key affair. This appeal has to a greater extent found resonance among people in Kashmir. Similar appeals were made on social media networks.
“Before you go out to shop this Eid, remember there are around 400 boys who can't see, 10,000 who are still nursing injuries in different hospitals. Their bones are broken but not courage. Please let them feel cared, loved, respected, wanted, by our resilience and austerity. Let's share and feel each other's pain,” Shams Irfan, a journalist wrote on his Facebook page.
The markets, which used to be thronged by people buying various essentials for Eid, wear a deserted look. Although, people descend on markets for quick shopping during relaxation time (6 pm), but there is no guarantee when this three-hour deal would be cut short.
On Saturday, two people were killed in south Kashmir and when the markets were about to open a group of protesters appeared in Lal Chowk and forced the shopkeepers to keep the shutters down.
Mohammad Yaseen Khan, president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) says the business activity had plunged 90 percent and traders prefer to keep their businesses shut. The markets are open only for three hours, that too on particular days when the shutdown is allowed a “relaxation.”
“Business is very slow. People seem to have made up their mind that there will be no shopping, no new clothes for children, no mutton and chicken and most of the people I know have decided to not to perform the religious ritual of Qurbani — sacrificing an animal — mostly sheep,” Khan said.
The nomads, who descend to the valley ahead of Eid to sell cattle, have also made an exception this time. Only a few can be seen roaming around the city. These days, the makeshift market for selling and buying of sacrificial lamb, wears a deserted look, bereft of the usual buzz.
It is pertinent to mention here that 84 percent of the state’s 12.55 million population (as per 2011 census) is predominantly non-vegetarian — with majority residing in the valley.
“Instead of Qurbani, it is better to help the needy because people have not worked in the last two months,” Khan added.
Tauseef Ahmad Malik, a readymade garment shopowner, said most of the people associated with the industry had decided not to import children's clothes due to the prevailing situation in the valley.
“Children's clothes are in high demand on Eid, but we knew there would be no takers this time around,” Malik told Firstpost.
Even toys, which sell like hotcakes, on the eve of Eid, have not been imported from Gujarat and Delhi, the two Indian cities which supply most of the children's toys to the valley. Majority of these toys are sold in Saribal area of Srinagar, but shoppers here say they have not even displayed the old stock, fearing reprisal from people.
This is part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.