- The Prayers: In some places, like the CM's hometown, prayers were allowed a day after Id. Most places were less lucky.
- The Protests: Since Burhan Wani’s killing, there has been no let-up in protests against security forces, with slogans of ‘azadi’.
- The Body Count: Two Kashmiris were killed in firing by security forces on Id in Bandipora, taking the toll since July 8 to 80.
The mosque as a site of politics is indeed part of the Kashmir story—as pivotal points of congregation and dissemination right from the days of 1989 to the recent flashpoints. And yet, people in the Valley cannot recall when, if ever, they were barred from offering Id prayers in mosques. Some people claim this last happened almost two centuries ago when Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid was forcibly shut down for several months following an uprising against oppressive Sikh rulers.
But this year on Id, people woke up to find the streets teeming with security forces and curfew imposed across the Valley. Broadband and Internet was blocked, barring services provided by the state-run BSNL. The Id curfew, in fact, became one of the reasons cited by senior PDP leader Tariq Hamid Karra, who was representing Srinagar in the Lok Sabha, when he resigned both from the party as well as from Parliament on September 15. “The PDP has become a collaborator for the fascist RSS-governed BJP,” Karra, known to have been a close aide of the late CM Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and one of the founder-members of the party, told reporters.
Ninety-two-year-old Mohammed Ismail has forgotten little of the people’s uprising against Dogra rulers in the 1930s and another against the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah, the first prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, in 1953. But he does not recall an occasion when people were not allowed to offer prayers on Id. “Curfew on Id is unthinkable,” says Ismail, shaking his head. Former CM Omar Abdullah echoed the sentiment and told newspapers in Delhi over the phone that the unprecedented step would have a “severe backlash”.
In the CM’s hometown, Bijbehara, prayers were allowed the day after Id. But in neighbouring Pulwama, no such permission was given. Wherever there were prayers, they were followed by protests against the security forces. At least two Kashmiris died in firing in Bandipora and Shopian towns, taking the toll to 80. Incidentally, it was the first killing in Bandipora. A staggering 13,000 have received serious injuries so far. An average of 166 people are getting injured every day, according to a report in Greater Kashmir.
There’s anger against Delhi, but even more against CM Mehbooba Mufti, who is pretending as if it’s business as usual. Barely four days before Id, she posed for photographers in Jammu riding pillion on a scooter. Two young men had been killed that day, one of them in Shopian, by security forces. Asked for her reaction, the CM quipped, “I’m slightly upset because I was scheduled to visit Shopian later today.”
If she expected brownie points for her ‘cool’ reply, she would have been disappointed. “She seems to have no clue how to conduct herself,” Rajiv Kumar, a Kashmiri scientist working in Heidelberg University, posted on a social media platform. “She doesn’t even look as if she is interested in governance. Her only interest seems to be securing the chair.” Others were even less charitable, accusing her of deserting her people—of a “sellout”, as Karra said.
There is undoubtedly fatigue after two months of turmoil, but it seems to have affected both sides. In the absence of mass media, people fell back on word of mouth, relaying stories they may have heard and possibly embellishing them. Locals were said to have cut power supply to an army camp. Even security forces are learnt to have knocked transformers off in some places to deny electricity to villagers. Milk-sellers from villages are said to have been denied entry into Srinagar. And the city’s biggest vegetable mandi is closed for weeks. Even people who do not support calls for ‘azadi’ have begun wondering if New Delhi has any plan at all to deal with the situation, barring meting out collective punishment to a defiant population.
By Showkat A. Motta in Srinagar