Business for Eid struggles in Kashmir after floods

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SHAFAQNA - While the streets of Srinagar – the capital city of Indian-held Kashmir, are thronged with people and shops once again adorn lights and decorations, business is stagnant for Eid al-Fitr this year.

Indeed, shopkeepers complain that last year’s devastating floods have left traces on this year’s Eid.

“There is about a dip of 70 percent in sales this Eid as compared to previous years,” says Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF). “Last year’s floods that destroyed Kashmir are the major reason for this dip. The business has been down over the last 10 months and it is the same for Eid.”

The floods in September, which were the worst the region had experienced in a century, killed more than 300 people and caused considerable damage to property, business and infrastructure, which is still visible in the regional capital, Srinagar.

Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, was celebrated Saturday in the Indian-held Kashmir.

Eid al Fitr and Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice – to be held later in the year) are the two most important festivities in the Muslim majority Indian held Kashmir and are celebrated with fervor.

Children wear new clothes and run around with toys, lighting firecrackers. Mutton and chicken are cooked in homes and the famous Kashmiri bakeries bring out the best of their wide array of specialties.

The bakery shops, which during this time of year, generally hire extra helping hands to deal with the rush, say that their own employees are enough for this Eid.

Every Eid, long lines snake along the street pavements to end up at the entrances of these bakery shops. For hours, customers stand in line, inching closer to the pastries, cakes, cookies, patties and cream rolls that have over the years come to define Eid in Indian-held Kashmir.

But this year, while the number of customers is important, the long lines are nowhere to be seen.

“We have so far made 125 kilo [grams of baked goods] so far and it is quite less compared to what we would make during other Eids,” said Irshad Ahmad, an employee at the famous Ahdoos bakery shop on Srinagar’s Residency Road told Anadolu Agency.

At the Shakti sweets shop in Regal Chowk, around 20 people stand pressed to the glass counters asking for snacks and sweets.

“I have been here for 40 minutes and they are not giving me what I want. I don’t think the business is that bad; take a look at the number of people standing here and in the next sweet shop and in all
the bakeries and sweet shops in this city. Everywhere is overflowing with people,” Shazada Akhter, a shopper at the Shakti sweets shop told Anadolu Agency.

Still, all shopkeepers who spoke to Anadolu Agency, agree that business during Eid has been sluggish.

The lines are reportedly shorter this year at ATMs in Srinagar’s business hub Lal Chowk.

“I have been guarding this ATM for six years now and I remember the days before Eid as the busiest time ever. While it has been busy these days too, it is nowhere comparable to the rush of people who would come to draw money [in previous years],” said Khurshid Ahmad.

Even the narrow Gonikhan lane, known as Srinagar’s market for women, misses the ceaseless bubbling river of women, young and old, that would trudge from one shop to another. The shopkeepers say that not only are there fewer customers this year, but they also shop with more restraint.

This Eid in Srinagar, after the somber Eid al-Adha following the September floods, is a cautious one as people though parking in the glitter of the markets are stopping short of the extravagance that has been the essence of Eids past in Indian-held Kashmir.

“Inshallah we will shop again in the coming Eids but we have had a terrible flood last year which hurt everyone in one way or the other. One lost his business, another his home and still another everything. And since then, there have been four major flood scares, so naturally there is sense of worry and fear which is making us think twice about our indulgences,” said Hilal Ahmad Khan, a resident of Jawahar Nagar, one of the areas worst hit by the floods.

Furthermore, this Eid comes with its share of weather-linked tragedies as well. A day after a 15-year-old girl was killed in the Sonamarg area amid hours in localized torrential rainfall, more rain is expected over the next two days in various areas, keeping people in the bowl-shaped Kashmir valley on edge.

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full.

The two countries have fought three wars - in 1948, 1965 and 1971 - since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.

Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in IHK have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed so far in the violence, most of them by Indian forces. India maintains over half a million soldiers in the IHK.

A part of Kashmir is also held by China.

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