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Is this the Eid that Kashmir wants?

By Abdul Nisar

New Delhi, Sept.7 (ANI): A few days left for Eid and Srinagar is like a ghost town. It is the holy month of Ramadan and in normal course, the bazaars should have been chock-a-block full with shoppers. Instead there are security forces patrolling the streets trying to save themselves from arsonists and ensuring that the curfew is not disrupted.

On other days, strike calls by the separatist Hurriyat leaders keep shops shut and people inside their homes. The daily fast or 'roza' is broken in silence inside tomb like homes with just a frugal iftar. The elaborate preparations are missing. Very few families can afford to buy dry-fruit and more pertinently, who will risk going out into the streets to buy them?

There is no festivity evident anywhere. It can only be termed a cruel irony that Thereek-e-Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has called on Kashmiris to observe an 'austere' Eid. The word Eid in Arabic literally means 'festivity'. Does Mr. Geelani even interact with Kashmiris to understand that they can't celebrate Eid like it should be, even if they wanted to?

Geelani, the separatist leader who is spearheading the 'Quit Jammu and Kashmir' movement says, "Every house in Kashmir is in a state of mourning. Kashmiris are facing the worst form of oppression. In these circumstances, how can we celebrate Eid with fanfare? We have to show that we are an oppressed nation. Celebrations and sorrows can't go together."

For those in New Delhi who think that Geelani is showing signs of moderation, here is his other Eid statement "Even if India uses all its military might, we will not let the blood of martyrs go waste. Let us take a pledge on this Eid that we will not rest unless we achieve freedom."

So more blood will flow because the Hurriyat will continue to put Kashmiri youth on to the streets and the forces have orders to quell the violent protests. he 29 days of Ramadan brought no respite and Eid on Friday/Saturday will be no different. At the wholesale markets like Koker Bazaar, Court Road and Mehrajganj in Srinagar, most shops are closed.

For almost a decade now, when there was normalcy in Kashmir, these bazaars would be buzzing with activity in the days prior to Eid. Syed Ather Pervez, a wholesaler says, "The stocks have rotted because retailers did not pick up supplies.There is such uncertainty about the strikes and curfew that nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. In such a situation we are all tense. What business can we expect?"

Niaz Ahmad who works in the marketing of dry fruit says, "If there is one word I can use, it is that we are all 'pareshaan'. (Disturbed). We can't foretell what will happen tomorrow let alone the week ahead so nobody is buying or selling. That itself is depressing."

Syed Ather Parvez, member of the Wholesale Dealers Association says, "the stock in my shop is rotting. Some people who did not buy any dry fruit this year are pedaling last year's supplies, which they had stocked up on. This hartal has made us penniless. Who will compensate the heavy losses tell me? The leaders or New Delhi?"

Mr. Geelani grandiloquently states, "I salute the courage and resilience of Kashmiris who have been rendering unflinching sacrifices for the ongoing agitation."

Courage is not the reason for their resilience. It is the utter fear and helplessness that is muting ordinary Kashmiris.

Street vendors who used to sell Islamic religious items like Misawak, Ittar, rosary beads, posters of Mecca and Humayun caps are stuck at home unable to wheel their carts to the streets. This is the month they used to make their maximum sale that would see them through the winter. But now they have to show resilience and shed blood say 'leaders' like Masarat Alam, who selectively meets with foreign media in undisclosed locations that are strongly fortified and well stocked.

At Mehrajganj, the wholesale market where dry fruit is sold, there is an eerie silence. Dates of all kinds, almonds, pistachios, cashew and raisins come in from different parts of the country and even from Saudi Arabia to be sold during Eid. Traditionally Kashmiris use dry fruit in all their Eid preparations whether it is their pulav (a rice and meat dish) or their puddings, Khir, Firun, Shier Chay and Kehva (tea with almonds). Abdul Rashid a shopkeeper says he used to earn about Rs 1-2 lakh ($ 2135 to 4275) during the Ramadan period but this August he hasn't even earned 10% of that.

Kashmir has had a record production of almonds this year. Manzoor Ahmad, Technical Officer of the J and K Horticultural Dept says, "Last year, the production of almonds was 12,500 metric tonnes. This year, the production will be around 13,000-13,500 metric tonnes."

However trucks cant operate in Kashmir during the days of the strike and on days when there is unrest and curfew. This means nearly 20 days of the month are non-operational days. So the almonds will not move from the fields to the shops. The farmer, the wholesaler, the retailer, the exporter- all Kashmiris will face huge irreparable losses.

A few days before Eid at the shrine of Sufi saint Syed Ali Balkhi in Pakherpora, Budgam, devotees pray for peace "Our beautiful and exotic state of Kashmir is witnessing turbulent times since the last few months. To restore normalcy in the region, we offered prayers with honesty and devotion at the shrine along with the other revered clerics, and prayed. We asked God to return joy, prosperity, harmony and peace in Kashmir. We hope that the issue of Kashmir would also be resolved soon," said Fayaz Ahmad, a devotee.

The head of the Sufi Shrine Committee Mohammad Abdullah Magrey says, ""If you go to any area of Kashmir, you will find the shrine of some religious saint or the other. This is why Kashmir is also called Pirwar (abode of the saints). This shrine of Syed Balkhi is revered by many people, and I believe that all prayers are answered here if the intention is right and pure."

The prayer is for peace and happiness. After all, isn't that the true spirit of Eid? By Smita Prakash(ANI)

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