By Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie 28 May 2020
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 Shawal moon, as a routine late night announcements were made on loudspeakers in the local Masjids, extending greetings to the people. However the Eid was different due to the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. This year Eid was a sombre festival, though many people throng around the designated bakeries and confectionary shops. But in most of the places, officials swung into action and sealed many shops for violations of social distancing, even many prominent bakeries, readymade garment shops remained shut. At many places there was shortage of essentials and especially meat and chicken. Due to the supply demand gap unlike Rs 110/- a kilogram chicken was sold at Rs 180/- and the butchers sold mutton at Rs 650/- a kilogram against the prescribed rate of Rs 440/-
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. People miss hugs as Coronavirus looms. Markets, which would usually be bustling with people busy shopping on the eve of Eid, were looking deserted. Also, this Eid, everything temporal associated with celebrations, was missing. Apart from no shopping for new clothes and accessories, traditional seviyan (vermicelli) stalls, toys, fire crackers on the roadside were not seen this time. The roadside stalls, selling bangles and fashion accessories, that has remained the symbol of festivals from decades together also remained closed. The pandemic has affected us immensely. Visits to grocery shops, markets, have fallen drastically. According to the World Bank, the lockdown has impacted nearly 40 million internal migrants, forcing them to return to their villages and even some lost their precious lives.
Like last year when whole state was caged following the abrogation of article 370, this year Eid-ul-Fitr also brings no joy for the people of Kashmir valley. No Eid prayers were allowed for the second consecutive time in major Eidgahs, Masjids and Khanqas of Kashmir as police enforced restrictions in most parts of the valley. Police personal made announcements early in the morning on public address systems appealing people not to go for Eid prayers as restrictions were still in place as part of the lockdown. Forces prevent worshipper’s access to Masjids and Eidgahs as all roads and checkpoints were closed with barbed wires to prevent people to offer congregational prayers. Keeping in view of the prevailing situation Futwas were issued by leading Muftis and seminaries to offer prayers at home. Subsequently people also preferred to offer Eid prayers at home, either individually or in small groups comprising family members. Last year on Eid-ul-Azha, Eid prayers were also not allowed in Kashmir as authorities had imposed a strict curfew following the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the erstwhile state into two union territories.
In downtown Srinagar the Eid turned into mourning when news broke out that the two civilians injured in the Nawakadal gunfight succumbed to their injuries. Soon social media networking sites come up with posts and tweets, this is not Eid, it is Karbala, some wrote no Eid, No Mubarak, No celebrations. Our Eid is symbolic. There is a lockdown within lockdown; today two more civilians injured in Nawakadal scrummed to their injuries. Do you still believe this is Eid? Is this Eid or Ashura, the day of mourning? These posts were followed by hundreds and thousands of comments. In contemptuous disregard of the heavy security presence around them, people in Kashmir observed Eid al-Fitr festival with conflict looming over family celebrations. Eid has no flavour here and most people like last Eid termed it as the Worst Eid of their life. There is certainly anger in the valley and is growing because in many states lockdown has been eased but we are facing lockdown within lockdown. People mostly argue that in mainland India people had been allowed to assemble in long queues in markets and outside the liquor shops but here the state has enforced a strict lockdown to allow people to offer the Eid prayers in Eidgahs and other business activities.
Due to the continuous lockdown most of the people who are working in and abroad and were expected to celebrate Eid with their families celebrate their Eid away from home as they could not come home due to the continued lockdown. The community aspect of Eid is really important and there is a lot of anxiety to the people for not being available for each other. It was certainly a difficult moment for them. Due to the current situation with no source of income, this lockdown has completely broken the back of the poor due to hunger, starvation and deaths. Finally it is science which is recommending lockdowns and other preventive measures. But all we believe it is Science that will figure out the vaccine for this virus and it is only science that can again restore the human life. After two months there will be another Eid. These religious festivals do come every year but this time we are more concerned about the return of normal life and we hope this too shall pass.
Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie has done Ph.D from the Pondicherry Central University. He is working as teacher in the Education department.