Eid Celebrations in Kashmir: Reviving the 'Azadi' Demand

Masood Ahmed
7 February 2004

On 2 February 2004, the Muslim holy festival of Eid-ul-Juha was celebrated with fervour in Jammu and Kashmir. Eid celebrations were held in the backdrop of the thaw between India and Pakistan which began with the unilateral ceasefire along the Line of Control announced by Pakistan to mark the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr in November 2003. Kashmiri leaders made Eid-ul-Juha a rallying point for reviving the decade-long demand for 'azadi' or independence, which had taken a backseat in the backdrop of India-Pakistan peace initiatives. During Eid celebrations, Kashmiri leaders demanded that the longstanding dispute should be resolved in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.
 
The festival of Eid symbolises the spirit of sacrifices given by Muslims and it is celebrated by reaffirming one's faith in Islam. Eid also marks a day of expressing love, compassion and brotherhood. As a festival which is celebrated in the entire Islamic world, Eid highlights the rich history of the religion of Islam. Eid is also an expression of the amity and brotherhood of the 'Ummah', the Muslim community of the world. In Kashmir, Eid was celebrated with thousands of people offering prayers at mosques.

The significant aspect of this year's Eid celebrations was that the 'azadi' demand reached its crescendo in the Valley. In their speeches across the Valley, leaders urged Kashmiris to struggle for attaining complete 'azadi' from Indian rule. Speaking on Eid, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the Geelani faction of the Hurriyat Conference, reiterated his resolve to free Kashmiris from the 'oppressors'. Geelani asked Kashmiris to pray for freedom from India. Agreeing with Geelani, Farida Behenji, chief of Kashmir Mass Movement, stated that the 'dawn of freedom' would be ushered soon by Kashmiris. Leaders like Sheikh Jamil-ur-Rehman, the Amir-e-Aala of Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen, asked Kashmiris to stop celebrating Eid till Kashmir was liberated from 'Kaafir' Indians. Rehman stated that the Islamic flag should be hoisted only after complete 'azadi' is achieved.

The 'azadi' demand was more or less the only theme that was raised by Kashmiri leaders in their Eid speeches.  Shabir Shah, leader of the Democratic Freedom Party, stated that "we would celebrate Eid only when we succeed in completing the mission of the martyrs." He also urged Kashmiris to be ready for rendering sacrifices for achieving the supreme goal of 'azadi'. Chairman of the Muslim League, Mian Manzoor, joined the 'azadi' bandwagon and stated that Kashmiris should pray for freedom on Eid. On the eve of Eid, Dr. Nazir Ahmed of the Freedom League asked Kashmiris to remember the sacrifices made by their brothers. Ahmed criticised the India-Pakistan dialogue and stated that it was incumbent upon every Kashmiri to reject such talks which did not mean a complete resolution of Kashmiri dispute.

Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Chairman of the Ansari faction of the Hurriyat Conference, greeted the people of Kashmir on Eid and asked them not to forget the martyrs who had laid down their lives for Kashmir. Ansari stated that  "We should adopt more liberal views because we are passing through a very crucial phase of our struggle". Mushtaq Zargar, supreme commander of Al Umar, urged Kashmiris not to forget the orphans and widows of the martyrs who sacrificed their 'present' for the 'future' of the Kashmiris. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a member of the Ansari-led Hurriyat Conference, stated that Kashmiris would soon succeed in achieving their goal. Defending the decision to hold talks with the Indian government, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that the Hurriyat fully supported the peace process between India and Pakistan. He also warned that any solution to the Kashmir issue would not be durable without the involvement of Kashmiris. "We fully support the peace process between India and Pakistan... We want to push it forward and contribute to it. That is why we entered talks with Delhi," Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said while addressing an Eid gathering at Jamia Masjid in the Valley. Expressing hope that a new beginning would be made on the occasion of Eid, he said "Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without the involvement of Kashmiris in the talks process."

Eid in Pakistan
In Azad Kashmir (AJK), President Maj. Gen (retd.) Sardar Muhammad Anwar and Prime Minister Sardar Sikander Hayat led the Eid celebrations. Both leaders paid tributes to the 57-year long Kashmiri liberation movement. President Anwar stated that Eid reminded Muslims of the sacrifices given by Prophet Hazrat Ibrahim. Anwar further stated that Eid reminds Kashmiris of their brethren who are exposed to the atrocities committed by Indian troops. Lamenting that Kashmiris are killed every day, Anwar welcome the peace initiative between the two countries. Anwar further stated that any dialogue without the participation of Kashmiris would fail. Prime Minister Hayat stated that though Kashmiris welcomed the recent peace initiatives, the longstanding dispute should be settled in accordance with the UN resolutions as well as aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Syed Salahuddin, chairman of the Jihad Council and Supreme Commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, stated that no one would be allowed to betray the sacrifices given by Kashmiri people. In a special message on the occasion of Eid, Salahuddin stated that Kashmiris would continue to lay down their lives till freedom is achieved. Salahuddin urged Kashmiris to express their full solidarity, support and affection to the families of those martyred in the 'azadi' movement. He also urged Kashmiris to unite in order to thwart the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in a manner that is contrary to their aspirations. Salahuddin mentioned that more than five lakh people following the great sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim, rendered their lives against the cruel and tyrannical rule of Indian forces in the valley. "The Kashmir struggle is a message for the oppressors of the world that followers of Hazrat Ibrahim know very well how to come successful out of difficult times," he said. Salahuddin stated that the Kashmir valley will be liberated soon as the freedom struggle had entered a very crucial phase. 

Pakistani lawyers expressed solidarity with the people of Kashmir and reiterated the demand of resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions. Muhammad Kazim Khan, chairman of the Executive Committee of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), pledged not to let go waste the sacrifices rendered by the people of Kashmir to achieve the right to self determination. Addressing council members on 4 February 2004, Khan stated that Pakistan and India would do a great injustice to Kashmiris if they tried to solve the Kashmir issue without taking the aspirations of Kashmiris into consideration. Khan recalled the words of Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah who had said that 'Kashmir was the lifeline of Pakistan and any imposed solution would not be acceptable to Pakistanis and Kashmiris.'

The occasion of Eid witnessed the revival of Kashmiris long-stated demand of 'azadi'. In their speeches on Eid, Kashmiri leaders stated Kashmiris will continue to struggle for their right to self determination. Kashmiri leaders also reiterated that 'azadi' could be attained only by continuing with the 'jihad' (holy war). The success of the 'azadi' movement and 'jihad' will be ensured if Kashmiris draw inspiration from the spirit of sacrifice symbolised by the holy occasion of Eid-ul-Juha.