Khan Waqas and Basit Parray
In Jammu and Kahmir, Eidgah are also hosts to the largest cattle market. At the entrance of the large, open-air market of “Eidgah” in the valley, several high tents are installed. If it weren’t for all the dust and dung, one would be forgiven for thinking they were at a glamorous wedding reception where the guests of honor are goats and sheep’s meant for holy sacrifice.
The cattle are displayed across the vast area in the scorching sun. The cattle are continually groomed by minders, coloring them across the body and metal bells dangling around their neck.
However, this time market is not bustling with business. Cattle owners point it out to Covid damages.
Since the last two years Kashmir’s Eid festivities were struck down due to pandemic. And 2021, saw a lethal second Covid wave along with another major lockdown imposed across the valley. Festivities went in isolation as large gathering were not allowed and people were reluctant to go out and enjoy Eid at its fullest. Last Eid-ul-Adha also saw valley suffering financial crunch, which was evident from the drop in sale of sacrificial animals.
This year, Eid brought some joy in Kashmir Valley. However economy has not revived back and it reflected sorrow for many.
The tradition of purchasing animals has become a wealthy affair. Kashmir having a population of the average middle class is finding it difficult to afford buying animals after three years of the slump in income.
Aaje Sikandar is a cattle owner. His entire family came from the mountains of Poonch. Carrying his beloved cattle from rigorous mountains, he travels more than 200 km on foot feeding his cattle. Since the past weeks, he is hopeful of selling his cattle for the value he deserves. “I was not able to even sell a quarter of my cattle”. He blames Covid lockdowns for the downfall. “Covid has hit the financial condition of people in the valley very badly and all those lockdown resulted poor financial income. People don’t have money to spend.”
At Eidgah children come with their parents, excited to buy cattle for the first time. In the dusty hot area, Hanan’s parents bargain with the owners for prices. The children are forcing the parents to buy the best animals which are stylish, if not quantitative. Hanan in his blue Afghan Style Kurta and Pajama (Shirt and trousers) sits among the herd of cattle and chooses one sheep of his liking.
On Eid, children are typically given the duty of distributing the sacrificed animals among their neighbors. They don newly purchased clothes for the occasion or the best clothes they own. And some of them will be first-timers with all the excitement to practice this ritual.
Little Naira, remembers every Eid in isolation due to the pandemic lockdowns. This is her first time given the responsibility of distributing the meat among her close neighbors. The seven-year-old picks the fine meat and cuts it into small pieces. Wearing a yellow and white dress naira distributes the meat going door to door. “I’m happy to distribute “Kurbani” (sacrificed animals). All the neighbors presented me with sweets and gave me love”.
14-year-old Shakir Farooq from Narwara Srinagar is waiting along with his father outside the gates of the main marketplace. He’s continuously sipping ice-cold water from a plastic bottle. His father is trying hard for two days to convince the customers to buy some of his cattle. All the efforts finally pay off as Shakir’s father makes a sale of one of his sheep. Shakir looks dejected while preparing the sheep for the final goodbye. He loosens the rope around his neck, kisses its head, rubs it back, and carries him towards the customer’s car. “I took care of him for almost a year. This is such a difficult moment for me. I miss my cattle when they are sold”.
Abdul Hameed Wani, a cattle trader says, “That sales have fallen sharply this Eid as compared to previous ones. “I had bought about 30 sheep for sale. I have been here for almost a week and I think I have to go home empty-handed. This is because of the fact that there is hardly any demand for sacrificial animals this time around as people don’t have money because of the slump in business due to lockdown and other reasons. Prior to 2019 people used to buy a sacrificial animal for Eid about two weeks before the festival. This time around there are hardly any buyers.
Sahil Khan, a 7th class student from rainawari Srinagar said, “I am very happy as this is the very first Eid-ul-Adha in which I am least worried about Covid and I can go anywhere and shake hands to anyone, last year I was worried because of the pandemic I never got the chance to go out and play. This time I will enjoy with my friends without any hesitation.”
Basser Ajaz, a student of 8th class said, “Last year when Covid was on the peak, I was afraid to go out and we used to distribute meat in polythene bags. Many of our neighbours were very reluctant to take the meat because they were afraid of getting Covid”.
“But this Eid sure bring the joy. I am happy that I was able to go to my relatives to give them meat without any polythene bag and show them my Eid outfit,” he added.