Tears and stories of Eids spent at home and of phone calls from family marked a sombre Eid get-together at Jantar Mantar organised by youngsters from Jammu and Kashmir living in the capital.
For Asif and Ajaz, both second-year students at Delhi University from Poonch, this was the first Eid away from home. “This is our second year away from our homes but we had gone back last Eid. We had planned to go back this time as well, but we did not know how we’d travel from Jammu to Poonch. We don’t know if buses are plying and we haven’t been able to speak to people there so far,” said Ajaz.
“It feels a little reassuring to be around people here on Eid, but who can replace our parents, to whom we can’t speak?” said Asif.
As people sat down on the ground in lines facing each other, volunteers filled their plastic plates with an assortment of food — biryani, samosa, poori, dal, korma, sheermal, sweets and fruit.
Sohail (26) from Anantnag slipped in quietly and handed over a bag of food to the volunteers, but said that he himself was unable to eat. He has not spoken to his family since the communication blockade. “During Eid at home, my mother wakes me up early in the morning and we go for prayers and eat together after that. Today, I haven’t even eaten breakfast because it just doesn’t feel right.” He had travelled to Jantar Mantar from Gurgaon, where he works, though he did not know anyone at the gathering: “It’s just so that I can be with brothers and sisters who are having the same experience…”
Most of the 20-30 young people from J&K at the gathering were students or civil service aspirants. Shariqa, who completed MBBS from Delhi this year, was one of the organisers.
“We aren’t celebrating Eid today… If there’s anything to celebrate, it’s our resilience, strength and hope… We didn’t choose to be here today, we were supposed to be with our families,” she told the gathering.
Youngsters took to the mic to speak of family and not knowing what Eid looked like in their homes this year. “It’s not like we have always celebrated Eid at home. But every year, the day has begun with a phone call from my mother. This year, no one called,” said Qamar from Poonch, who completed his undergraduation from St Stephen’s College this year.
Meanwhile in Gurgaon, Kashmiri Pandits held an Eid gathering for Muslims from the Valley.
Hauqib (28) recalled that every day since he left home 12 years ago, he has spoken to his mother at least once a day. On Eid, though, the engineer said not getting through to his family due to the communication blackout in Kashmir was the hardest part. His brother Saqib, a lawyer with a private firm, managed to speak to their mother four days ago, with the help of an SHO in Srinagar.
Jaibeer Ahmad, who hails from Anantnag and works with an ad firm in Gurgaon, said he too was unable to contact his parents.
On Monday, Hauqib, Saqib and Ahmad were among those who attended Eid celebrations organised by Kashmiri Pandits at the club in Wembley Estate.
Vikesh Trisal, one of the organisers and Hauqib’s neighbour, said, “Our Kashmiri brothers right now feel they are alone, and we wanted to do something for them. There have been some people who have spoken against it (this event), but we were clear this was important.”
Chief guest at the event Dr Hanif Qureshi, administrator of the Haryana Waqf Board, said, “Festivals are meant to rekindle bonds of love. In the given circumstances… I think it is an important initiative taken by Kashmiri Pandits of Gurgaon.”