Kashmir cut off from Eid festivities, blockade continues
Fearing anti-government protests, Eid celebrations in India-administered Kashmir were subdued with streets and markets in the Muslim-majority region deserted due to tight security restrictions.
After a security lockdown and a communications blackout imposed by New Delhi following the withdrawal of Kashmir's special constitutional autonomy a week ago, the festival of Eid was muted across the Valley.
People were only allowed to pray in the Jama Masjid, Srinagar’s biggest mosque, which was ordered closed and were allowed only in smaller local mosques so that no large crowds could gather.
Amidst the curfew and the missing phone calls, a group of students from Kashmir held a meeting at the capital’s rallying point, ‘Jantar Mantar’ especially those who were unable to get in touch with their families back home and unable to return.
“This is one of the darkest Eid festivals I have celebrated. This is not a festivity, this is a time of reflection and pondering of what lies ahead,” Faiq Faizan, an organizer told RFI.
“This 'celebration' is actually a public gathering to share food, and stories about Kashmir. We do not have placards or banners and are not shouting slogans but the point remains the same - protest,” Sharika Amin, a clinical psychiatrist from Kashmir told RFI.
Eid – away from home
For many Kashmiris, Eid is a huge festival with the idea of food tied intrinsically to it - of people sharing meals. But for the hundreds who gathered, it was a somber moment as they shared stories, worried about their families and the future.
Many brought in delectable dishes of biryani, kebabs and sweet savories that were distributed and eaten in silence unlike the mirth that accompanies these occasions.
“This meeting is our novel way to register our protest. I hope the authorities are seeing this and reflect on what a cruel mistake they have committed,” exclaimed Rafiq Husssain, an architecture student.
From all accounts, the virtual curfew-like situation has left huge swathes of its residents worried amid growing uncertainty. Many are simply unable to reach their close family members to tell them they are fine.
The blackout has resulted in little concrete information as to what is happening in Kashmir. As a result it has forced people to stay indoors as troops patrol barricaded streets and neighborhoods secured with concertina wires.
The government has already issued a security order banning public meetings and rallies, and said schools would be closed till sense of normalcy returns.
Eid al-Adha, also called the "Festival of the Sacrifice", is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year. It honours the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God's command.
“Is it not ironic that we are sacrificing ourselves on this auspicious occasion?” said Rafiq Bhat, an engineering student. He has been unable to reach his aged parents since August 4.
The move deprives Kashmir of the autonomy it was granted in exchange for joining the Indian union after independence in 1947.
Moreover, it will lose its constitution and flag. Rules that prevent outsiders from buying land are also being scrapped, prompting fears that the territory’s demography and way of life will be altered.
Having been shut out and shut down in such a manner, the big concern is when the restrictions will be lifted and life returns to some semblance of normalcy.