Markets overflow with buyers on Eid eve in Kashmir

September 30th, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Sep 30 (IANS) As Eid-ul-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of month-long fasting, draws closer, buying is at a feverish pitch with people in the Kashmir valley thronging markets to shop, jostling, haggling and pushing one another to jump the queue.”Eid is still a day or two away and most of the bakery shops in the city have sold all their stocks,” said Showkat Ahmad, 49, a government official.

Eid will be celebrated in the Indian sub-continent either Wednesday or Thursday depending on the sighting of the moon.

But long impatient queues of shoppers waiting for their turn to buy poultry, mutton, bakery, hosiery, etc., are seen almost throughout this summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

Shopkeepers have tastefully decorated their shops to attract buyers who are spilling over to markets in droves.

“Why are we buying things as if this is the last day of the universe? It has perhaps become second nature for us to always buy more than we actually need. And what happened to those appeals by the separatist leaders who wanted Kashmiris to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr with austerity?” Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher, told IANS.

But others seem to have justifications for the panic buying.

“The valley has been historically landlocked from the rest of the world. The strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway, the lifeline of our supplies, often gets closed during the winter months and even when it rains heavily. This has taught us to always buy a little more than required,” said Basharat Ahmad, 46, a businessman.

Hosiery stores and even provision stores have announced special discounts for the buyers this festive season to ensure maximum sales.

As markets overflow with shoppers and pedestrian malls are occupied by pavement sellers, traffic at almost all city roads gets jammed.

“We have a very tough time streamlining the traffic in the city. People somehow are still far away from learning the right traffic behaviour. I think we need to hold mass traffic awareness programmes in the city,” said a police officer, in charge of traffic management in the city.

As the autumn season precedes a harsh winter in the valley, woollens, jackets and tweeds for traditional local over-garments called ‘pherens’ are some of the more sought-after things after mutton and poultry, the two things every local household must have for lunch on Eid day.

“You see, the Eid lunch is the first daytime meal we have after a month’s fasting during the month of Ramadan. So that lunch is special for every Muslim,” said Master Habibullah, 67, of north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

The administration has moved out special market checking squads which have been realizing huge fines from hoarders and profiteers.

“This has at least kept some balance in the markets where otherwise traders are used to charging the consumers at will.

“I saw teams of government officials checking weights and ensuring fair prices in the market,” said Gulam Qadir, who was jostling with other buyers for his turn to get bakery at a popular bakery shop in the Maulana Azad Road area of Srinagar city.

“There are sufficient stocks of essential supplies including mutton, poultry, milk, vegetables, cooking gas and kerosene in the entire valley. There is enough for all of us. So I appeal to the people to ensure that they buy essential commodities at prices fixed by the government,” Masaud Samoon, Kashmir divisional commissioner, told IANS.

Given their festive mood, it appears, Kashmiris are right now just bothered about making merry.

After all, such festive occasions are few and far between in a land that has remained beleaguered with violence for nearly two decades now.

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