SHAFAQNA -Â While the streets of Srinagar –Â theÂ capital city of Indian-held Kashmir, are thronged with people and shops once again adorn lights and decorations, business is stagnant forÂ Eid al-Fitr this year.
Indeed, shopkeepers complain that last year’s devastating floods have left traces on this year’sÂ Eid.
â€œThere is about a dip of 70 percent in sales thisÂ Eid as compared to previous years,â€ says Mohammad Yasin Khan, president of theÂ Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF). â€œLast year’s floods thatÂ destroyedÂ Kashmir are the major reason for this dip. The business has been down over the last 10 months and it is the same forÂ Eid.â€
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-heldÂ Kashmir.
Eid al Fitr andÂ Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice –Â to be held later in the year) are the two most important festivities in the Muslim majority Indian heldÂ 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 thisÂ 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 comeÂ to defineÂ Eid in Indian-heldÂ Kashmir.
But this year, while the number of customers is important, the long lines are nowhere to be seen.
â€œWe have so far made 125 kilo [grams of baked goods]Â so far and it is quite lessÂ compared to what we would make during other Eids,â€ said Irshad Ahmad, anÂ employee at the famous Ahdoos bakery shop on Srinagar’s Residency RoadÂ told Anadolu Agency.
At the Shakti sweets shop in Regal Chowk, around 20 people stand pressed toÂ the glass counters asking for snacks and sweets.
â€œI have been here for 40 minutes and they are not giving me what I want. I donâ€™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,â€ Shazada Akhter, a shopper at the Shakti sweets shop told Anadolu Agency.
Still, all shopkeepers who spoke to Anadolu Agency, agree that business duringÂ Eid has beenÂ sluggish.
The lines are reportedly shorter this year at ATMs in Srinagar’s business hub Lal Chowk.
â€œI have been guarding this ATM for six years now and I remember the days beforeÂ Eid as the busiest time ever. While it has been busy these days too, it is nowhere comparable to the rush of people who wouldÂ come to draw money [in previous years],â€ said Khurshid Ahmad.
Even the narrow Gonikhan lane, known as Srinagarâ€™s market for women, misses the ceaseless bubbling river of women, young and old, that would trudge from one shop to another. The shopkeepers sayÂ that not only are there fewer customers this year, but they also shop with more restraint.
ThisÂ Eid in Srinagar, after the somberÂ 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-heldÂ 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 thinkÂ twice about our indulgences,” said Hilal Ahmad Khan, a resident of Jawahar Nagar, one of the areas worst hit byÂ the floods.
Furthermore, thisÂ 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 nextÂ two days in various areas, keeping people in the bowl-shapedÂ 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 -Â in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -Â since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought overÂ Kashmir.
Since 1989, Kashmiri resistance groups in IHK have been fightingÂ against Indian rule for independence or for unification withÂ neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 Kashmiris have been killed soÂ far in the violence, most of them by Indian forces. India maintainsÂ over half a million soldiers in the IHK.
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