Kashmir gripped by Eid fever as problems take a backseat

    By Sheikh Qayoom, IANS,

    Srinagar : With tastefully decorated markets, pavement vendors spreading goods right to the middle of the road, long queues before bakery shops, self-indulgent buyers and unscrupulous traders, Eid shopping has reached a fever pitch here as the other problems afflicting this state take a back seat.

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    Despite the border tension between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir, locals appear to put their worries behind them as they prepare to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.

    Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Two days ahead of the festival, shoppers hit the markets early Wednesday morning looking for bakery products, mutton, chicken, vegetables and other essentials of life.

    As shoppers indulge in panic buying, traders dictate prices because the administration does little more than setting up market checking teams which shop for their families as they go around, apparently “checking the markets”.

    A few traders are even booked to provide material for official press releases that assert that the prices are under control.

    Eid has always been an occasion in Jammu and Kashmir during which celebrations and festivities take precedence over other priorities and problems of life.

    “Why not? After all Eid comes but once every year. As occasions for joy and festivities are otherwise also few and far between, Kashmiris naturally do not want to spoil their mood by haggling over prices, etc,” college principal Muzaffar Ahmad told IANS.

    Children, accompanied by parents buying firecrackers and readymade garments are a common sight in the local markets.

    Women carrying shopping bags more than they can handle is another common sight in departmental stores of the city.

    Interestingly, the affluent local middle-class forms the majority of shoppers at the city’s high-end departmental stores, where plastic currency is used for almost 90 percent of transactions.

    “It is only the meat shops and the bakery shops which do not have the credit card facility. Everywhere else in the city you can buy anything with a credit card,” said Irfan Manzoor, a local mediaperson.

    For the last few years the locals have been contributing significantly to orphanages and other philanthropic causes in the city.

    “It is directly related to two things. One is the power to donate and the other the religious and moral realization that one has a duty towards fellow human beings.

    “Since Kashmir has seen the worst type of violence during the last 23 years, it is natural for people to seek more solace in religion and morality than they did before the turmoil”, said Farah Qayoom, who teaches sociology at Kashmir University.

    “Well, my family has been keeping the fast for the last 28 days. It is not doing too much or being self-indugent if I buy things to please everybody at home on Eid-ul-Fitr”, said senior bank official Junaid Ahmad.

    To manage the choked roads and streets in the city, the traffic police have announced an elaborate roadmap on Eid eve.

    Given the prevailing confusion on the roads, it appears the traffic police do not want to spoil the festivities by strictly enforcing regulations.

    (Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected]