Dr Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
This year at the end of the fasting month of Ramzan when the state sponsored Ruet-e-Hilal Committee in neighbouring Pakistan announced the sighting of the Shawal moon, late-night announcements were made on loudspeakers in the local masjids in Kashmir extending greetings to the people. However, this Eid was very different due to the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. Even many prominent bakeries remained shut. At many places there was shortage of essentials and of meat and chicken.
Traditionally, no Eid or any other festive gathering is complete without shaking hands and hugging each other. With social distancing being the norm to fight Covid-19, Eid-ul-Fitr celebration was limited to distant greetings or a virtual Eid Mubarak. Markets which would usually be bustling with people were looking deserted. Also, everything associated with Eid celebrations was missing. Apart from no shopping for new clothes, traditional seviyan (vermicelli) stalls, toys, fire crackers on the roadside were not seen this time. The roadside stalls selling bangles and fashion accessories, long a symbol of festivals, also remained closed.
Like on Eid-ul-Azha last year when whole state was caged following the abrogation of Article 370, this year Eid-ul-Fitr also brought no joy for the people of Kashmir valley. No Eid prayers were allowed in major Eidgahs, Masjids and Khanqas of Kashmir. Police made announcements early in the morning on public address systems that restrictions were still in place as part of the lockdown. All roads to Masjids and Eidgahs were closed with barbed wires and checkpoints to prevent people from offering congregational prayers. Keeping in view the prevailing situation, Fatwas were issued by leading Muftis and clerics to offer prayers at home. People also preferred to offer Eid prayers at home, either individually or in small groups comprising family members.
In downtown Srinagar, Eid turned into mourning when news broke that two civilians injured at the Nawakadal gunfight site had succumbed to their injuries in hospital. Soon, social media posts and tweets came up saying this was not Eid but Karbala. Some wrote: No Eid, No Mubarak. Our Eid was symbolic of the lockdown within the lockdown imposed on us. Is this Eid or Ashura, the day of mourning? Some people termed it as the worst Eid of their life. There is certainly anger in the valley and it is growing because in many states lockdown has been eased but not here. People point out that in mainland India people have been allowed to assemble in queues in markets and outside liquor shops but here the state is not even letting people offer Eid prayers in Eidgahs.
Due to the lockdown, most Kashmiris who are working elsewhere could not come home to celebrate Eid with their families. The community aspect of Eid is really important and there is a lot of anxiety if people are unable to see each other. The prolonged lockdown has also broken the back of the poor and this Eid they had no money to spend. We all are placing faith in science to discover a vaccine against this virus and restore normal life. In two months there will be another Eid. We hope that by then this lockdown would have eased.
The writer has a PhD from Pondicherry Central University and works as a teacher in the J&K Education department