Eid-eve has never been so subdued in Srinagar

Jammu and Kashmir
Srinagar, Oct 4: While the ghosts of last month's devastating floods continue to haunt the major commercial hubs of Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar, almost a month after they were submerged, Eid-eve has perhaps never been so subdued in the city in living memory.

The worst-hit by the devastation of businesses and homes in Srinagar is the once booming sacrificial animal market of Srinagar at the Eidgah grounds in the old city. This is the largest animal market in the Valley and even today is full of sacrificial animals, including sheep and goats, and their sellers who have come from different places - but buyers are few and far between.

"I have brought my flock of sheep and goats from Wadwan (Kokernag). I reared these animals for the whole year to fetch me good prices on Eid-ul-Azha. More than 50 percent of my last year's buyers have not visited me this year. Even those who come and buy animals for sacrifice are doing it partially," Farooq Ahmad, 60, who comes each year to sell his stock of well-fed animals, told IANS.

"Buyers who would take four sheep for sacrifice are buying just one this year," he added.

Muslims throughout the world offer animal sacrifices on Eid-ul-Azha, also called Bakr Eid, to commemorate the sacrifice offered by prophet Abraham.

"We don't have a home this time. Where do we do the offering? Normal life has taken a backseat. I have been running from one insurance company to another to get my car and household goods assessed by surveyors deputed by insurance companies, Bashir Ahmad, 63, whose uptown Gogjibagh house was inundated by flood waters on Sep 7, told IANS.

"Where is the time for doing anything else?"

Ahmad has since been living at the house of his wife's brother in the Zadibal area of old Srinagar.

The most sought after bakery shops in the Maulana Azad Road and the Residency Road are still closed after the floods hit them.

So are all the fashionable hosiery and readymade garment shops in these markets.

"Children won't get their firecrackers and toys this Eid. Those markets have also been inundated and remain closed. Yes, the one thing that everyone of us will do on this Eid is offer the Eid Nimaz to thank Allah that we are still alive," Noor Muhammad, 60, who lives in the Padshahi Bagh area, told IANS.

"After our homes got flooded on September 7, we took shelter in the local mosque for four days before we could move out to safer places," he added.

While markets in the old city areas were not directly affected by this year's unprecedented floods, Eid-eve shopping is hardly seen there as well.

"You don't celebrate when thousands have been rendered homeless and hit by floods. The least we can do to identify with the flood victims in the Valley is not to indulge in shopping and festivities.

"How can you bring new clothes home when your fellow citizens are wearing clothes given to them as relief," asked a stoic resident of Rajouri Kadal in the old city.

Eid falls on October 6. For many days before Eid markets in Srinagar would remain overcrowded with shoppers. Pavement sellers would spread their merchandise on pedestrian malls. Makeshift markets would result in endless traffic jams in uptown city.

Today the only overcrowded places are where people are waiting for relief material, including cooking gas, kerosene oil and medicines.

Resentment is growing in many places as residents blame the government for its failure to streamline the relief and rehabilitation process.

The state government has sought Rs.100,000 crore ($16 billion) as central assistance. This is also to cover losses suffered by private and public properties, livestock, agriculture and government infrastructure. The floods killed 196 people in the Jammu region while 85 died in the Valley.

Reports of profiteers hoarding goods to make money also continue to pour in from different places.

"We have booked many people who are trying to convert this tragedy into an opportunity for themselves.

"This includes blackmarketeers and those trying to raise unauthorized constructions in the city," said a senior official of the state administration.

The message for Kashmiris in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley is clear. Everything humankind owns or builds is at the mercy of nature.

Nothing proves this more than seeing the crestfallen faces of people as Eid shopping and festivities cease to be anybody's priority this year.


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