The Eid That Was

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The Eid That Is

Cry, My Heart, For All That We Have Lost

It is a global phenomenon that the holy days of any religion or faith are celebrated by the followers of that religion in recognition of their local culture and traditions. In all civilizations, it has been observed that regional traditions and culture dominate in the celebration of these holy and festive days of the religion.

Let us remember how Eid festivities used to be when we were young. We all remember that Eid celebrations always had the local Kashmiri flavour. In every nook and corner of Kashmir, the valley used to reverberate with the songs (Rouf) and dances (Hekech) of women. Children used to celebrate Eid happily jumping up and down the villages, wearing traditional clothes and fabrics. Men used to assemble in their respective villages and towns dressed in their best attires with a local flavour, sing Eid songs and play kabaddi.

Ramadan And Eid Were Marked By Joys And Festivities

Kashmir wore such a beautiful, festive look on Eid. There were smiles on all faces, irrespective of class, creed or community.

I remember with nostalgia that Eid was the happiest time in Kashmir, particularly for women and children. Women in rural Kashmir would perform Rouf soon after Iftar for the whole month of holy Ramazan. It was all so festive and colourful. Women would perform Rouf close to the premises of local mosques. Men would offer prayers simultaneously.

It was a simple society. People felt a closeness of heart. They felt a loving togetherness. Perhaps that is why women sang and danced close to the mosque while the men of the families were inside. No one objected to the women singing and gently swaying there. There was joy and happiness in the air. Everyone shared in it.

I feel overwhelmed when I remember what Kashmir was, and what simple times they were. It was far from the current shrieking times of social media where everyone seems to be outraged and angry all the time.

As a child, I remember watching my mother, aunts, other women in the community lovingly and joyfully singing and dancing after Iftar through the holy month of Ramazan. They were close to the mosque, so some times their songs would be heard.

Then someone from the mosque would come. He would very politely and lovingly ask the women to move a little far from the mosque to avoid distraction.

This brings to me another beautiful memory. Eid was the day when women had complete freedom and liberty to celebrate the festival as they wished. The celebrations and festivity of Eid truly reflected upon Kashmir’s liberal and inclusive society.

Eid Celebrations Were Declared Un-Islamic 

It seemed unimaginable at that time that these simple and godly days shall end. Even as a grown and mature man, my heart cries at times that they ended.

With the onset of radical religious thought processes which finally culminated into terrorism, Eid celebrations were denounced and declared un-Islamic. The radical religious preachers would issue decrees against Eid celebrations.

My beloved motherland was swamped by the hate and negativity of radical men. The hawkish Jamaat leader Syed Ali Geelani would always issue a statement days before Eid. He would call upon people to mourn Eid, not celebrate it.

Geelani would always recite Iqbal’s famous couplet Eid-e-azadaan shikoh-e mul-o-deen Eid-e-mehkoomaan hujoom-e-moomneen (Eid of free people is discussion and debate on religion and politics while Eid of slaves is just a crowd). 

Militants And Jamaatis Told Us To Mourn Eid, Revellers Were Intimidated

With the advent of radical Islam and its culmination into militancy, the women in Kashmir lost their songs and dances. They lost the celebrations. They lost the smiles on their faces that Eid would bring.

In the initial years of militancy, militants would appear at Eidgahs. They would give sermons before Eid prayers. They would warn women and children not to venture out of their house for Eid.

The militants would dispel the crowds who had assembled in open spaces to celebrate Eid, by resorting to aerial firing. They would beat men and women to chase them away from the field where they had gathered for Eid celebrations.

For a couple of years, Kashmiri men and women resisted the diktat of the militant groups. But finally, the simple commoners had to give up owing to threats and intimidations. By this time, some youth from these simple families had absorbed the poisonous thoughts circulating around them. They had become part of the militant groups or Over Ground Workers. These radicalized youths too dictated their writ within their families in the name of Islam.

Stone Pelting Made A Kashmiri Tradition

From 2008, stone pelting was introduced by the separatists. After the culmination of Eid prayers, the youth were routinely provoked to engage into pitched battles with police and security forces deployed for maintenance of law and order.

All the separatists, irrespective of their ideologies, would call stone pelting as Intifada. This was the revolt begun in December 1987 by Palestinian Arabs to protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There was so much thrust on the so-called Intifada that from Eid congregations to special Friday prayers, the stone pelters would dominate the streets. Mehbooba Mufti, during her tenure as chief minister, once said that separatists have reduced Friday to the stone pelting day.

Fearing deterioration in law and order, the authorities started enforcing restrictions on Eid. The days of Eid in Kashmir were reduced to a farcical situation. On one side, the state imposed restrictions to avoid clashes. On the other side, the separatists warned against celebrating Eid.

Finally, Eid Was Enforced And Accepted As Day Of Mourning

From 1993 onwards, Jamaat e Islami workers took it as their bounden duty to ensure that people do not celebrate Eid according to local cultural traditions. They joined forces to chase away people who would gather in their respective localities to celebrate Eid with local traditions.

The radicals started enforcing more and more restrictions on Eid celebrations. Now even children were barred from celebrating Eid. Simultaneously, Kashmir became more and more dark and tragic. The number of people killed in militancy-related incidents swelled with each passing year.

Slowly, gradually, this beautiful day of festivity and celebration was enforced and accepted as a day of mourning.  From 1995 till 2008, radical groups like Jamaat e Islami and the militants ensured that Eid was observed strictly according to their interpretation of Islam. Note this. Eid was not celebrated now. It was observed.

Pakistan Suffocated In Kashmir Everything That We Rejoiced In

By suffocating and snuffing out even the Eid celebrations, Pakistan and the separatists made sure that Kashmir became a place where everyone was always supposed to be angry, pessimistic and depressed. The rich cultural ethos of the Kashmiris was deliberately and cruelly choked. Our traditions and folklores were choked. Now the only discourse is about killing and killers. I was startled at how truthfully the Kashmiri journalist and poet Bashir Manzar captured the situation in his words. “Yehan shayar nahi karte lab-o-rukhsar ki batein. Yehan maqtal ke qisse hein faqat hein daar ki baatien.”         

Happy News: Eid Rouf Making A Comeback

There was a phase when children were provided with toy guns in abundance on Eid, and they would play with them. The culture of toy guns was encouraged. One can imagine the psychological impact of this culture on tender minds, combined with hate spread by radical preachers and the otherization of outsiders in Kashmir.

During the decade of the 90s, Eid Rouf was kept alive only by Doordarshan Srinagar. On Eid day, Rouf would play on DD all day long. Women would delightfully watch Eid Rouf on TV within their homes. The happy memories of old times would also bring tears to their eyes.

Every artificial imposition has a shelf life. Now, the pendulum is swinging back. At the Kothi Bagh Girls Higher Secondary School in Srinagar, the teachers celebrated Eid Rouf. The video went viral. Kashmiris are again searching and finding their roots. Hopefully, it is the Kashmiris themselves who will revive their old traditions of festivity and joy.

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