No money, no sheep: threats weigh on Eid’s holiday in Kashmir

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Security forces in Srinagar, the main town in Indian-controlled Kashmir, are likely to make it difficult for the population to observe on Monday the tradition of sacrificing a sheep for the first time.

Eid's holiday in Kashmir
File AFP
Eid's holiday in Kashmir
File AFP

After driving his vehicle over 20 kilometers between his house and the suburbs of this city of 1.5 million inhabitants, crossing barricades and reels of barbed wire placed on the road by members of the paramilitary forces, Bashir Ahmad could not find any place from which to withdraw money to buy this animal.

“I took the risk of taking the road but it is useless,” laments the businessman, explaining to AFP that vending machines are now empty and banks closed.

Last year, he had bought five sheep for the occasion, but this time he is empty-handed.

“I do not think I’m able to buy a sheep this year and offer it as a sacrifice,” he says regretfully.

“The prices are too high, the merchants say they risk their lives to come out on the streets,” complains Shakeel Bhat, who walked ten kilometers to the Srinagar market.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, had assured that Muslims, who are in the majority in Kashmir, could celebrate Eid without any difficulty Monday, a week to the day after the revocation of the institutional autonomy of this region and the establishment of a curfew.

– “An interference in our religion” –

In normal times, tens of thousands of sheep and goats are slaughtered for this important Muslim holiday, and their meat is then distributed to relatives and orphanages.

But this may not happen again this year, because to ensure security, the Indian authorities, supported by cohorts of paramilitaries, have taken very strict measures that prohibit large gatherings.

Merchants do not hide their frustration either.

This is the case of Shamsher Khan and his two brothers who belong to the nomadic Kashmiri community and have been raising sheep and goats for ages throughout the year with a view to selling them on the occasion of Eid.

Samsher Khan walked nearly 250 kilometers to go with his flock of 150 sheep from Reasi district to Srinagar last week.

“We do not make sales this year, people do not have cash and the situation is so bad that hardly anyone dares to go out” to go to the market, he laments.

“Our only source of income is when on this occasion (Eid, ed) we sell our flock and earn money to support ourselves in the coming year,” continues Samsher Khan.

And while Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that the end of Indian Kashmir autonomy would not only eradicate terrorism and separatism, but also promote economic development.

Shuja Rasool, an inhabitant of this Himalayan region, does not get angry, going so far as to say that the measures taken by New Delhi constitute an “interference in our religion”.

After having faithfully complied 32 years in the tradition, he also has not managed to obtain the sums needed to buy animals to sacrifice.

“We are not free to practice our religion, it makes me very sad,” he says.

“When he (Narendra Modi) lifts the curfew, we will sacrifice ourselves, just as we sacrifice goats for Eid, we will sacrifice our own lives for our nation,” exclaims for his part of a cattle dealer.

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