September 2016 News

Eid In The Time Of Curfew - And Some Biscuits From Delhi

12 September 2016
The Indian Express
Ritu Sarin and Mir Ehsan

Srinagar: Carrying gift packs, Valley residents packed flights to Srinagar Monday for the return home for Eid. Their spirits sank when they landed, arriving to a city under lockdown, only to be told a few hours later that curfew would be clamped across Kashmir Tuesday to pre-empt trouble on the streets. For most part of the day, Srinagar's markets and malls were shut, and the roads deserted. In the evening, however, people stepped out to do some last-minute shopping for Bakrid. Some vegetable vendors, chemists and provision stores did manage to do some business but that didn't last too long. At a popular dry fruits store on Regency Road, Mohammad Amir said he had nothing to sell except biscuits. 'Supplies haven't been reaching Srinagar for the last two months. I managed to get a few cartons of biscuits from Delhi. And that is all I am offering my customers for Eid.' In Haiderpora, men stood with sheep and goats by the roadside. Arif Hussain Khan said he had managed to sell only 40 from his flock, and not the 150-200 he did every Bakrid. 'People seem to be in mourning.' Some distance away, Riaz Khan had a similar complaint. He was shooed away by groups of agitated youth who told him he should do no business this Eid. 'I have returned for a few hours. The boys may come back, the security forces are nowhere to be seen.' For the first time, curfew will be imposed on Bakrid because officials fear mass protests and rallies across the Valley Tuesday. Separatists have called for a march to the office of the United Nations Military Observer Group at Sonwar and blockade of the highway from Uri to Banihal. At a meeting of top officials of police, civil administration, paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies, it was decided to impose curfew across the Valley. The authorities also decided to deploy UAVs and choppers for aerial surveillance. Officials said there was apprehension of protests after the Eid prayers and authorities in Srinagar and rural towns had been advised to impose curfew from the early hours of Tuesday. The main Idgah in Srinagar and the Jamia Masjid, where the largest Eid congregation takes place, will be sealed and people will not be allowed to offer prayers at any mosque or ground along the National Highway or adjacent to the main roads. People were being told to offer Eid prayers only in neighbourhood mosques and not move from one area to another. CRPF Special Director General S N Shrivastava said no large congregation would be allowed. 'Smaller processions may be allowed but on routes to the large mosques, hurdles and barricades will be in place. Srinagar has a history of violent processions on Eid and we are not taking any chance. People can offer namaz on Eid at a mosque closest to their home,' he said. In Anantnag in South Kashmir, securitymen were deployed in numbers after police cordoned off the two main Idgahs at Janglat Mandi and Ashipora. On Monday afternoon, broadband services and mobile connectivity across the Valley was stopped. 'We have clear instructions from higher authorities to cut broadband services in the Valley,' a BSNL official said. Only BSNL mobile and landline phones will function. Administrators in city and rural hospitals have been asked to prepare for any exigency and several hospitals have asked doctors to report to work. Director (Health) Saleem-ur-Rehman said all hospitals in the Valley were fully prepared to tackle any situation on Eid. 'We are hopeful Eid will pass peacefully. Our doctors and para medical staff will be on duty even on Eid,' he said.