February 2003 News

Violence-weary Kashmir prays for peace on Eid

11 February 2003
The Daily Times

SRINAGAR: Kashmiri Muslims will be praying for a day of peace during Eid, but fear renewed trouble between India and Pakistan could spoil the celebrations.Eid is being celebrated today in Kashmir, where markets have been packed for days with shoppers, despite the heavy presence of Indian security forces.'Eid is a festival when everyone wants peace,' said vendor Abdul Gani of the three-day celebrations. Mr Gani owns a shop in Srinagar's Maharaj Bazar, the site of frequent fighting between Indian troops and the rebels. 'All these days I have been praying for peaceful Eid celebrations,' he said.But residents fear trouble following the latest diplomatic duel between India and Pakistan, which saw tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats by both countries on Monday. Mr Gani said the row has dampened festivities ahead of Eid.'The fresh tensions between India and Pakistan make me sad,' said Farah Hussain, a school teacher. 'There is always some tension on festivals despite our prayers for peace,' she said.Srinagar's main downtown shopping mall, Lal Chowk, is a frequent target of militant-led attacks which have killed and injured scores of civilians, but it was crowded with last-minute Eid shoppers. This was in spite of checking of shoppers and vehicles carried out by Indian troops.Both store owners and shoppers, including women and children, said they were happy the commercial areas of Srinagar had so far been free of violence.On an average, ten people are killed daily in separatist-linked violence in Kashmir, which once drew thousands of Indian and foreign tourists.For those who have lost relatives in the past, the present lull in violence offers little consolation. 'Eid hurts me the most,' said Mehbooba Nazir, 38, a Muslim woman who lost her husband and a six-year-old son in a bomb attack in 1997.'I feel sad when I see children in new clothes with their parents,' she said. -AFP


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