A day after the Centre’s decision to scrap the special status granted to J&K, Mohammed Ashraf (35) set out on a journey he was waiting for all the year — a 90-km trip from Verinag in south Kashmir to Srinagar to sell 50 sacrificial lambs for Eid.
Four days after his arrival in Srinagar, Ashraf has been anxiously waiting at a pavement in Barzulla neighbourhood for customers, but there have hardly been any buyers for his sheep, though Eid is just a day away.
“All the year, I was waiting for this day. But in the last three days, I have only sold six sheep. I don’t know how to repay my debt to the dealer,” said Ashraf. “No one is coming to buy goats and sheep this time.”
With moist eyes, Ashraf said he regretted his decision to buy sheep this time. “Last year, I came to Srinagar with 80 sheep and goats. I sold all of them in a day,” he said. “I didn’t know the situation would worsen when I bought the sheep.”
Even as authorities eased restrictions on civilian movement for the first time on Saturday, shops remained shut and the hustle and bustle of markets were missing a day before Eid ul-Adha celebrations in the Valley.
The Sunday Express visited five prominent markets in Srinagar and found most of them shut, with only a handful of customers in some places.
Goni Khan market, a one-stop shopping centre housing boutiques, beauty parlours and shops selling cosmetics, bangles and apparel, is a big attraction for women customers. But despite the eased restrictions, the shops remained shut.
Lalchowk market, which has the most prominent showrooms in Srinagar, was sealed with spools of concertina and metallic barricades. Business worth crores is usually transacted here at this time of the year. However, on Saturday, only security personnel could be seen manning the deserted streets of the business centre and civilians were not allowed to enter its perimeter.
The Jamia Masjid market, one of the oldest in Srinagar, used to be thronged by thousands of customers this time of the year. But the roads were sealed on Saturday, with heavy security presence at every corner. The biggest Eid congregation used to gather at Jamia Masjid mosque, but Eid prayers would not be allowed here this year, officials said.
At Shakti Sweets, the Valley’s oldest sweet shop which used to witness long queues of customers, there was no traffic jam this year and very few customers after the shop rolled up shutters halfway on Saturday amid eased restrictions.
Meanwhile, life limped back to normal in most parts of Jammu province as prohibitory orders banning assembly of four or more people at public places were lifted and curfew was relaxed in Doda and Kishtwar districts.
Even as the administration said that all kinds of restrictions in Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur and Reasi districts had been withdrawn, mobile internet remained suspended.
Business establishments reopened following lifting of restrictions but there was no rush as is usually seen ahead of the festival. Educational institutions resumed classes but attendance was less at many places.
In Jammu, most people did not come out of their houses as they were not aware of the lifting of prohibitory orders, said local Muslim leader Zahoor Ahmed. There were less buyers at animal mandis set up on the outskirts of the city, he said. Curfew restrictions remained in Poonch and parts of Rajouri and Ramban districts.
In Kishtwar, the administration announced a one-hour to one-and-a-half-hour relaxation in curfew in phases beginning 12.30 pm. Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Angrez Singh Rana said the relaxation period was extended up to 7 pm as no untoward incident was reported.
However, many shops were closed and people were seen buying items of daily use instead of items for Eid, sources said.