Sporadic violence punctuated a sombre and muted Eid in Kashmir on Monday, with a near-complete clampdown in the valley preventing some residents from visiting mosques to offer prayers.
This year’s festival held greater significance than usual, with many Kashmiris looking forward to a calmer Eid following the relaxation of curfew on Saturday—just days after a blanket shutdown.
But security forces tightened the clampdown and curfew restrictions, reasoning large crowds would be a potential security threat.
In all areas of Srinagar, locals were told to pray inside their homes and in the neighbourhood mosques, according to locals. National security adviser Ajit Doval undertook an aerial survey of Kashmir, even as locals complained of restrictions.
“The second namaz happens at 8.30am and I have been going around on my scooter trying to find a mosque where I can at least offer afternoon namaz. But security forces have sealed all main mosques and we have nowhere to go and now we have no option but to go back home," said Tariq Bhat, who lives near Nowhatta, in Srinagar.
While the curfew was intended to prevent violence, it has, instead, fuelled resentment and stone-pelting across Hyderpora, Ram Bagh, Barzulla and other parts of old Srinagar, according to scenes witnessed by Mint and accounts shared by local police officials, with residents accusing the Centre of “gross injustice."
Large crowds gathered inside Hyderpora mosque—close to the airport—in defiance of prohibitory orders and raised slogans. Security forces moved in to drive out the crowds from the area, but that only led to heavy stone-pelting.
“We had really hoped on Saturday that they would at least let us pray in peace. What has been achieved by not letting us do something so basic? We are willing to make peace with everything the government is doing, but if they can’t even trust us enough to let us offer prayers on such an important festival, then how can they ever hope to win our faith?" said Ghulam Nabi, a resident of Hyderpora.
Even as state police and central paramilitary forces resorted to stringent crowd control measures in the wake of civilian violence, stone-pelting incidents broke out in areas near Budgam district in north Kashmir, with civilians hurling stones at security personnel through windows, according to local police accounts.
“We have sealed off all lanes in Nowhatta, Batamaloo and Khanyar because people are pelting stones from homes," said a police official.
While Batamaloo and Nowhatta were inaccessible, key mosques such as the Jamia Masjid near Khanyar in downtown Srinagar and the Hazratbal shrine—which witness an Eid footfall of around 50,000-70,000 people—were completely cut off to locals. All arterial routes connecting the city to the two shrines were sealed by concertina wires and metal barricades.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, issued a statement on Monday saying that Eid prayers had concluded successfully, with no violent incidents having been reported in Kashmir over the last week.