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‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown

‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown

SRINAGAR: Sixteen-year-old Nysan Ashraf is alone with her friend Afreen near Dal Lake, the popular urban lagoon known as “Srinagar’s Jewel,” where people gather at festival time.

Dressed in new clothes bought especially to celebrate Eid Al-Adha on Monday, Ashraf and her classmate said they are feeling lost and downcast.

“This is the worst Eid of my life. There is no program, no celebration, no festive atmosphere. We are feeling sorry for dressing nicely today,” said Ashraf, a Grade 10 student.

“Before we used to go to the mosque, then qurbani (animal sacrifice), and then we would greet each other on the phone, but everything is missing this year,” she told Arab News.

“I am not sure what is in store for us in future. I hope Allah has something good for us,” she added.

“People are angry. Look around, there are only military people sitting and watching. Do you think this is the democracy India claims to be? I want the government to restore our rights and let us decide our fate.”

Her friend Afreen said that “she feels really scared to see so many security people. Can we really say that it’s the day of Eid in Kashmir today?”

Altaf Ahmad, 43, a cleric in a mosque in central Srinagar, is also upset. “This is a day of deep sorrow for us. I have never seen this kind of Eid in my whole life. There is no sacrifice, no celebration,” he said.

“Eid is such an auspicious day for us. It’s a day when we offer a sacrifice to Allah. But we did not offer any sacrifice today as a mark of mourning.” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Tight security restrictions were in place in Srinagar on Monday, with restrictions on people visiting mosques outside their neighborhood.

• Larger mosques, such as Hazratbal and Jama Masjid, remain closed, according to some reports.

• The local administration advised people to offer Eid prayer at mosques in their area.

Ahmad told Arab News that “my mosque has three floors and can accommodate at least 500 people. During Eid normally 2,000 people gather in the mosque and nearby area to offer prayer. But you can see there are only 20 people today. Is this Eid?

“I have been called at least four times since Saturday by the Indian security personnel. They harassed me for offering my namaz (prayer). They were coaxing me not to lead the Eid prayer in the mosque on Monday. They also came this morning. We defied their order and offered our prayer. But attendance was very low,” he said.

“We are all immersed in deep sorrow. What crime have we committed that we have to see this day in our life? Why was I born to see this day?

“We are angry, but we are forced to be silent. We don’t know what will happen to us if we talk freely. We want to tell the world through you that whatever atrocities are taking place in Kashmir, it should stop immediately,” he said.

Haleema Shah, a schoolteacher, said: “We are not celebrating Eid today. We are in a state of mourning over the people of Kashmir being put in an open jail. We are mourning the scrapping of Article 370 of the constitution.”

Ashraf Wani, a sheep seller, said: “This Eid has brought huge loss for me. I spent at least $15,000 buying a herd of sheep. But I have not sold even one-third of the sacrificial animals that I brought to the market this time. I face a huge loss.”

Wani said that “generally on the day of Eid I do not come to sell sacrificial lambs, but this year I am on the road, hoping against hope to recover some loss.”

Tight security restrictions were in place in Srinagar on Monday, with restrictions on people visiting mosques outside their neighborhood.

Larger mosques, such as Hazratbal and Jama Masjid, remain closed, according to some reports.

The local administration advised people to offer Eid prayer at mosques in their area.

“We wanted to avoid any untoward incidents, so we asked people to offer prayers at a mosque in their locality,” said Rohit Kansal, principal secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

He refused to say how many mosques in Srinagar were allowed to conduct prayers on Eid.

Unconfirmed reports of violence in parts of the city could not be confirmed because of a large-scale communication shutdown.

“There was no untoward incident on the day of Eid. Whatever rumors are being spread are fabricated,” said SP Pani, Jammu and Kashmir’s police chief.

Manzoor Al-Hasan, a Srinagar-based journalist, said that “Eid restrictions have further angered the people. The government is managing the situation in the valley through a huge deployment of security personnel. How long it can contain the anger of the people remains to be seen.”

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