As the most of the Muslim world geared up to celebrate Eid, their biggest festival, the Palestinian Embassy in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri area wore an air of mourning on the eve of Eid on Monday.
The mood in the area reflected that in Gaza where the toll has climbed to more than 1,000 since Israel’s assault on Palestinian land began 20 days ago.
This year, the building wore none of the usual colourful banners and fairy lights; no elaborate lunches or dinners were planned.
“This is not Eid saeed (loosely translated as ‘happy Eid’), this is Eid ‘shaheed’ (martyr’s Eid),” Ibrahim Abughali, a Palestinian student at JNU, told Newsline.
“How can we celebrate when our people are dying? One-third of those dead in this conflict are children. This is why they need ‘self defence’…,” an embassy official, whose family lives in Shija’yah, Gaza, said.
In Arab countries, Eid-ul-Fitr is a three-day affair that began today. “Traditionally, Muslims visit their relatives and friends, and exchange gifts and greetings. This Eid, nobody has been able to step out. There is bombing everywhere; death is so common. This morning when I called up my brother to wish him, he said he had stepped out only to find water as most water sources in the area had been contaminated by ammunition. Forget celebration, they are struggling for basic amenities,” the official said.
Abughali agrees. Originally from Gava in Israel, his family settled in Gaza when he was a child. He came to India in 2007 to pursue higher studies in computer science and now lives in South Delhi.
While he misses home, Abughali said he feels “secure” in India. In the last seven years, he has gone back to Gaza just once — for 20 days in 2010.
“It is very difficult to gain entry into Gaza. I was shocked when I went home four years ago. The situation had become much worse since I left. From accounts my family and friends give me — it is even worse now,” he said.
The PhD student said the conflict had affected education of Palestinians. “When I got my Indian visa, the border was blocked by Israel due to some tension. I had to wait for seven months before the border was re-opened. By then, I had already missed one semester in college,” Abughali said.
In the last few years, he and other Muslim students at JNU have been coming together at one of the hostels and preparing breakfast to mark the occasion. “Our Hindu and Christian friends also celebrate with us. There are snacks, music and laughter,” he said.