Eid prayers peaceful, but festive buzz missing in Kashmir

PTI
Monday, 12 August 2019

Phone lines, mobile or landline, as well as internet connections have been suspended for the last eight days, leaving many families trying desperately to reach out to their loved ones but being unable to do so.

Srinagar: The festive buzz was missing in Kashmir on Monday with Eid prayers limited to neighbourhood mosques as authorities imposed strict controls and security forces fanned out across towns and villages, restricting the movement of people and prohibiting congregations in large grounds.

Eid al-Adha passed off peacefully, barring a few minor incidents, said Inspector General of Police SP Pani, adding that there was no firing anywhere in the Kashmir Valley.

"The Eid namaz was offered in different mosques and after the prayers the congregations dispersed peacefully. There were a couple of minor localised incidents of law and order which have been handled very professionally. In these incidents, there have been a couple of injuries which have been reported," he said at a press conference.

Rohit Kansal, principal secretary and the designated official spokesperson of the government, said Eid was celebrated in 90 per cent of the place.

But the mood was subdued with roads deserted across large swathes of the Valley, the silence broken only by police sirens and IAF helicopters hovering overhead.

Phone lines, mobile or landline, as well as internet connections have been suspended for the last eight days, leaving many families trying desperately to reach out to their loved ones but being unable to do so.

Kashmiris woke up to armed personnel deployed at every possible corner asking them to remain indoors.

The Eidgah ground and places such as the Hazratbal shrine, the TRC ground and the Syed Saheb mosque were quiet and desolate this Eid -- that comes exactly a week after the Centre announced that the Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 was being revoked and proposing that the state be split into two union territories.

It was a lonely Eid for former state chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, quite unlike previous years when their homes were full of celebratory crowds of supporters, friends and family members, officials said.

While National Conference president Farooq Abdullah is under house arrest at his residence, his son and party vice president Omar Abdullah is at the Hari Nivas Palace. Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba is at the Cheshma Shahi Hut here, officials said.

Several political leaders, who were picked up on August 5, offered prayers at the Centaur hotel on the banks of the Dal lake, officials said.

The government provided them with a 'maulvi' at the hotel where they have been kept since their detention, they added.

In many places, people could be seen requesting security personnel to let them through.

One of them was Mohammed Asgar, a resident of Indira Nagar in this main city of the Valley.

I wanted to wish my brother who stays across the road but was not allowed to do so, said Asgar, who wanted to meet his ailing brother in Shivpora, a distance of less than a kilometre from Indira Nagar.

Both Indira Nagar and Shivpora are within cantonment limits and this is the first time in 30 years of insurgency that such strict restrictions are in place, residents said.

Officials said on condition of anonymity that restrictions had to be put in place as people could have turned violent after Eid prayers. Last Friday, more than 10 people were injured with pellets and teargas shells when a congregation following the prayers turned violent in Soura on the outskirts of the city.

The media was subjected to strict curbs.

Some people gathered outside hotels housing media personnel, hoping to be able to call their children and families in other parts of the country.

They returned dejected when they learnt phones were not available to media personnel as well.

I thought I would be able to speak to my son studying in Bangalore as i could see journalists on television regularly and thought they had phone connections, said Nusrat Begum.

She and her husband Riyaz Mohammed went to the Syed Saheb Shrine in uptown Sonawar but could not offer prayers.

We thought we will first offer prayers at the shrine and then try our luck and speak to our child. To our surprise, the shrine is locked and imam is not to be seen anywhere, said Riyaz.

In local mosques, people were allowed inside in singles, officials said.

Hilal and Bilal of Dalgate area said they were not allowed to go together to their local mosque by security personnel who cited restrictions under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Does that make sense? What harm would it have done if we walked together to the mosque, said Hilal.

Seeing the ground conditions, I have planned to take my family to Delhi," he said.

People came out in good numbers to offer Eid prayers in Jammu and Kashmir and prayers concluded at prominent mosques in Srinagar and Shopian, according to a Union Home Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi.

"Info from various districts in #JammuAndKashmir. #Eid prayers offered peacefully in all local mosques of Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Bandipore, without any untoward incident. Jamia masjid old town Baramulla witnessed approx 10,000 people offering prayers," the spokesperson tweeted. 

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