SRINAGAR: Authorities in India announced that Eidul Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan, will be on Thursday. But for Kashmiris residing in India-held areas, Pakistan’s announcement in this regard had more weight.
“Eid is a moment of joy, one of very few occasions when Kashmiris come together to celebrate,” said Mohammad Faysal, a resident of Srinagar in India-held Kashmir.
“Kashmiris have always been glued to Pakistani channels, waiting for Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman to announce it for us,” said Faysal. “It never matters for Kashmir when India celebrates, because geographically we are closer to Pakistan,” he added.
Faysal, who is currently working to create and promote libraries in off-route schools of Jammu and Kashmir, said there are also the cultural and religious factors which keep Kashmiris close to Pakistan.
“So, whenever there is Eid in Pakistan, it is Eid in Kashmir. It is like a universal truth,” he maintained.
Hazratbal Shrine in the Srinagar district attracted at least 45,000 people for Eid prayers, which was the largest gathering, said Tahir Ibn Manzoor, a Srinagar-based journalist.
“The second largest gathering for Eid prayers was held at Eidgah in old city Srinagar where at least 40,000 people were in attendance,” he said, adding that some 20,000 people offered Eid prayers at TRC Polo Ground.
Fearing their presence could spark violence, the Jammu and Kashmir government had put top Hurriyet leaders including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik under house arrest.
“Since 2010, our leadership is put under detention on Eid,” said Faysal. “Today, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was detained after Fajr to stop him from giving a religious sermon.”
Umar Farooq is chairman of Hurriyet Conference and the Mirwaiz of Kashmir — highest religious authority.
But a protest broke out at the “martyrs’ graveyard” — a part of Eidgah — when Kashmiris rallied for freedom and against the curbs on leadership and plans of army settlements.
“During protests, indiscriminate teargas [shelling] and flashbangs were used on us. The entire place at Eidgah was gassed by the forces, created breathing problems and injuring scores of people especially women,” Faysal said.
There were also protests in districts Anantnag and Sopore, where protesters were seen waving the Pakistani flag.
“Pakistani flags have always been waved in Kashmir; one to show ideological support and the other as a symbol of dissent. So, whenever there are protests, Pakistani flags show up,” he concluded.