It was Eid-Ul-Adha, but there were no festivities in Kashmir. What was supposed to be a day of celebration and offer some respite from almost 66 days of unprecedented curfew and restrictions instead turned out to be a day of more killings and protest.
In the wake of the UN March call given by the separatist leaders, the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government again imposed a strict curfew on Eid.
Mobile phone networks were down and internet services were shut down a day ahead, across the valley.
The young and the old spent the day confined to their homes, unable to step outside. In Srinagar, the authorities didn't allow the congregational Eid prayers to be organised at the main venue Eidgah and Jamia Masid.
Likewise, in the rest of the valley, mass Eid prayers were barred by the authorities. At certain places, people were forced to offer the prayers at home as nobody was allowed to venture outside.
Only security forces and their armored vehicles were to be seen on other deserted roads. Roads leading to UN offices had been barricaded and no one was allowed to pass.
(Image - Syed Shahriyar)
“Even at the peak of militancy in the 90’s the day of Eid would be a cause of celebrations. We had decided to celebrate Eid with modesty, yet we were not allowed to do that. Today, what we are witnessing in Kashmir is unprecedented. We couldn’t even wish our next door neighbors. So what Eid are we talking about,” said Bashir Ahmed, a local businessman.
At Srinagar’s Eidgah ground were sheep and goats are sold to people as sacrifice animals on Eid, only the government forces were visible. People who had already purchased sacrificial animals also couldn’t perform their religious duty due to strict restriction in place.
On the day of Eid, the killings and protests didn’t stop either. Two more people were killed by afternoon in South Kashmir’s Shopian district and North Kashmir’s Bandipora, taking the death toll to 83.
Over 8,000 people have been injured since protests broke out after the killing of Hizb Ul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani.
Some 800 people have suffered pellet injuries, many of whom have lost eye sight completely or partially.
“In the morning, people had gathered for Eid prayers but the police and security forces resorted to heavy teargas shelling and pellet firing. One of the protesters was hit by a shell in the head. He died on the spot. That’s how Eid started for us,” said an eyewitness from Bandipora, who didn’t want to be named.
For children, Eid is about wearing new clothes, collecting Edhi from elders and going out to play with friends to light fire-crackers. But none of that happened. Instead, the children who have been under virtual house arrest for the past two months had to be content with watching TV and playing video games.
“On Eid we would go to different parks, but this time we couldn’t do any of that. I had plans to meet my friends from school who I haven’t seen in the last two months but since there was curfew, I didn’t,” says Rimsha, a class 9 student.
At Srinagar’s Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital where the majority of injured have been brought in the two months of protest, the flow of injured didn’t stem, even on Eid.
According to the doctors present on duty at the hospital, more than 15 people with bullet and pellet injuries were brought to the hospital on Eid day.
“Just after the Eid prayers people in Batamaloo carried out a peaceful protest. But security forces resorted to heavy pellet firing. One of my friend’s was hit in the face. Doctor’s here (hospital) say his vision has been partially damaged,” says Zubair, a volunteer at the hospital. “I should have been at home celebrating Eid with family and friends but here I am, knowing my friend’s life has been altered forever.”
One of the injured, 10-year-old Yasir Ahmed from North Kashmir Handwara was hit by two bullets in the crotch. As he lay on the bed withering in pain his aunt Haseena Bano stood beside him holding his hand.
(Image - Syed Shahiyar)
“His mother passed away when he was just 18 months old, I have been taking care of him ever since. He had gone outside to play just after the Eid prayers I didn’t even know he had been injured until someone from our neighborhood came in to tell us,” said Bano before before breaking down into tears “What harm could he possibly do to them?”
Yasir’s injury was so severe that the doctors had to remove one of his testicles. The doctor’s say he is very lucky to survive.