This Eid, Kashmiri students studying in different parts of India, are being forced to celebrate away from their home, without their family. After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A by the Government of India, the Valley has been cut off from the rest of India.
For the past five days, a complete blackout of communication and restrictions on civilian movement has hugely affected the students who are staying away from home for their education. No one knows about the whereabouts of their family - whether they are dead or alive.
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Afshana is one such student who is studying in a college in Delhi. She recalls how Eid ul-Adha would be celebrated at home usually.
She said that, every year a few weeks before Eid ul-Adha, her father, Mehraj-U-Din Kozgar, a fruit merchant by profession, would get an animal (sheep or goat) for the ceremonial sacrifice. All family members would get involved, some would feed the animal and some would apply henna on his legs.
“My father would buy new clothes for all of us. We would together plan how to distribute the meat of the sacrificed animal among our families, neighbours and friends,” she said.
She added that the preparation for Eid starts with cooking multiple cuisines, mostly non-vegetarian, decorating the house and buying different confectioneries. Afshana would join her mother, Zainab, for all the activities.
“On the day of Eid, we dress up and go to the mosque with my mother to offer congregational prayers. There I would also meet my friends and wish them happiness,” she recalled. She said that she used to receive Eidi (gift or goodwill money) from both her father and her elder brother.
But this time, she is staying in her hostel, as she is unable to travel and join her family. She hasn’t seen her family for the last three months and was expecting to meet them during this Eid.
“I am worried about my family. Of course, they will be worried about me as well. We have been unable to communicate due to the ban on cellular and internet services in the Valley for the past five days. My biggest Eidi would be if I can see my father or listen to his voice at least on the day of Eid”, Afshana said.
She recalled making henna designs on her hand for Eid, but right now her hands only have two emergency phone numbers written on them, which she is using to try to communicate with her family without success.
Her roommates, who are also Kashmiri, have similar stories to share.
Aabid Sheikh, a 22-year old student, who is pursuing an engineering course in Delhi, is celebrating Eid without his parents for the first time in his life.
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For Aabid, Eid this time is less of a celebration and more of mourning, as he is not able to find out the whereabouts of his family. He said that his only wish right now is to go back and see his family and to spend some time with them. However, the lockdown in the Valley has left every Kashmiri student anxious and stressed.
“My seniors are trying to relieve my pain but I have been unable to sleep for the past few days because I have not heard my parents’ voices for a week now. The situation in the valley is really tense which adds to my anxiety. One of my friends who is the only child of his parents, has been crying every night because he hasn’t heard from his parents in a week,” he said.
Many students are facing a shortage of money, and several are trying to minimise their expenses as they are not sure when they will be able to get money from home.
Rabiya (name changed), a 24-year old student at Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), who is pursuing a course in journalism, said that even if she got a chance to go home, she will not go. It will be hard for her to reach her home in Shopian, about 50 km from Srinagar, because of lack of transport facilities from Srinagar airport due to the curfew.
This is not the first time that Kashmir is celebrating Eid under curfew, but the way the entire Valley is under lockdown with no communication channels open is a first. There have been major protests on several occasions during Eid, but the blackout facing the valley right now has never happened, she recalled.
“I don’t know how long this curfew will last but I am praying to the Almighty Allah to put an end to our miseries and bring peace to the valley soon,” Rabiya said, with tears in her eyes.
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