Two days before Eid, three Bakarwal nomadic shepherds arrived in Kargil town with 125 sheep and goats each, bringing some relief to residents, many of whom had so far not purchased an animal for the festival due to the shutdown in the region.
“It took us two days to get here from Srinagar. We had taken a truck, but were stopped 25 km from Kargil town at a checkpost and had to walk from there with our herd,” said Manzoor Ahmed Awan, 24, as a dozen men and a few women crowded around him to get their goat and sheep weighed near Kargil’s main market area.
The animals were being sold for Rs 220 per kg — approximately Rs 6,000 for a goat or sheep.
On August 8, Kargil had witnessed protests against the abrogation of Article 370, and there has been a shutdown in the town since. The protests have been called off for two days for Eid, and on Saturday morning, several residents of Kargil town stepped out to buy supplies for the festival. A few shops had opened, and many extended their one-hour time limit to help customers.
After walking around for a few minutes, Mohammad Israr, 49, a government employee who has six children, chose a goat from Awan, but promptly complained, “All your goats are so thin. You haven’t fed them well.”
“Bohot chal ke aaye hain isliye duble ho gaye hain janaab (They have walked a lot, hence they have lost some weight). You can pick another goat,” says Awan, as he ties a rope around a sheep and lifts it on his shoulder to check its weight.
Unlike villages where most people have their own sheep and goats, residents of Kargil town depend on the Bakarwals to purchase animals before the festival every year.
“There is hardly any festivity at home, but we need to have a goat for Eid. I came here the moment I heard that the Bakarwals have arrived,” says Israr. “We will continue the protests after Eid. I don’t want my children to feel sad on the day.”
Members of the Joint Action Committee that is leading the protests have said they will decide the future course of action after Eid on Monday.
Awan, who had sold about 30 animals by 10 am, said, “We have never faced such a situation before. At one point we thought of returning too, but fortunately we were allowed today.”
Purchasing sugar and oil from a general store, Arifa, 36, who has three daughters, said, “The celebrations are not going to be big this time… But at least the shops have opened. After Eid, I hope all the other shops open too. Even schools should open… My daughter wanted to participate in the Independence Day function on August 15.”