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Jammu & Kashmir: Kashmir streets miss Ramadan festivity

08-08-2011

Srinagar, J & K, India, (Grearter Kashmir): While the holy month of Ramadan is celebrated with festivity and charm elsewhere, Kashmir seems to be an exception.

The Valley streets, even in this month of blessings and bounties, wear a desolate look in the mornings and evenings.

“Ramadan is a month of blessings and people should exhibit vibrancy on their own. In Kashmir, unfortunately, it seems as if people are fatigued which should not be the case,” says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Head Cleric of Kashmir. “Like other Muslim countries in the world, the month of Ramadan must appear different in Kashmir as well.”

Mirwaz makes a passionate appeal to the Traders Federation in Kashmir and also the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce to ensure that the markets in the Valley remain open and illuminated till late evenings. “We are whole-heartedly ready to lend support to this by making sure that the Jamia Masjid markets remain open till late evenings. Business Houses, Chamber of Commerce and Traders Federation must take an initiative on this front,” Umar told Greater Kashmir. “Not only must the shops remain open, our Masjids and other religious institutions should remain abuzz with activity.”

Mirwaiz believes that everyone, including Ulema, have to play an active role in “infusing a fresh lease of life in the markets and religious places in Kashmir.”

“One can easily understand that in the past 20 years or so, there is total sense of fear and insecurity among people. But then this is the month of blessings where we need to be vibrant,” he said.

A long time observer of Kashmir, Naeem Akhtar, says there is a stark difference between Ramadan in Kashmir and other parts of the world.

“Ramadan elsewhere is a month of festivity, pride and assertion of a bondage that is based on shared values of Islam that sink other distinctions. It is true of Arabs, Turks, Malays, Iranians, Central Asians, Afghans the major ethnic chunks dotting the Islamic world. Even in the Muslim cultural centres of sub-continent like Old Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Kolkatta, Peshawar, Ramadan presents a picture entirely different from the one that comes across in Srinagar. Around the world evenings are outdoors, feasting families and friends offering prayers through night presenting a grand mix of brotherhood, celebration and devotion to Allah. And charity is the hallmark,” he says.

He adds: “Ramadan is the time elsewhere to offer discounts even to non Muslim customers. Here it is the other way round. Overcharging in fact begins in this holy month, reaching the peak on Eid and the stabilizing at that level through the year, till the next Ramadan generally. And the general tendency to shirk work in this month, it comes as a handy alibi for not doing things.”

A number of web portals reveal the mood and festivity in different parts of the world during Ramadan.

“Ramadan arrives in Bangladesh with serenity, sanctity, festivity and philanthropy. Overflowing mosques with devotees, quitters streets, illuminated and ornamented shopping malls and markets, and festive villages make this month a symbol of blessing by Allah,” says a web-portal.

“Ramadan comes as a month of the Holy Quran. Masjids and other organisations arrange various programmes of teaching how to correctly recite the Holy Quran. A slogan of ‘Recite Quran, understand it and build the life with its light’ has becoming increasingly popular in Bangladesh.”

It adds: “Many organisations also organise Tafsir Mahfils and other such programmes in order to spread the teachings of the Holy Book. The festivity of Ramadan touches the lives of people living even in the remote villages, perhaps in a greater dimension. Their festival starts from the sighting of the moon that indicates the beginning of the holy month. People gather under the open sky to see the moon. They chant slogans like ‘Allahu Akber’ meaning Allah is Great after the moon is sighted. Young people and boys take the responsibility of waking up the villagers so that they can take their ‘Saheri’ at pre-dawn time by singing Islamic songs.”

In Sharjah, pertinently, the annual Ramadan Festival has already begun. “To make the event successful, the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has lined up a number of promotional programmes and activities in the shopping malls and markets in the emirate. The streets, public squares and roundabouts in various parts of Sharjah have been decorated with lights,” says Khaleej Times.

“The festival, with its social, cultural and religious events organised in collaboration with the government sectors, has proved, over the years, to be the right initiative in stimulating commercial activity.”

Interestingly, people in Kashmir endorse the Mirwaiz’s view that the conflict in Kashmir has cast its shadow on vibrancy among people. “There was a time when people would not venture out of their homes in the evening for security reasons,” says Aamir Manzoor, a student of Kashmir University.

“But today the situation is a little different and the government also has a responsibility to give sense of security to the people and traders. There is no point being inactive during this holy month. The civil society can step in with all the seriousness to ensure that the markets turn lively during evenings and special religious events are held in Masjids and shrines across the state.”

Jan Muhammad Kaul, president Kashmir Traders Federation, says the frequent on curbs on religious freedom and movement of people needs to be lifted for markets to remain abuzz with activity. “In the past 20 years, political uncertainty in the Valley has dealt a blow to everything, including opening of markets till late evenings. For markets to remain abuzz with activity, traders and people need to be given a sense of security,” he says.

“We have last year seen people not allowed to offer prayers during Fridays. So such restrictions have to go to let people feel relieved and ready to take to markets in the evenings. There is no denying the fact that Kashmir markets would once remain open till late evenings during Ramadan. But the scenario changed in the past 20 years.”

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2011/Aug/8/kashmir-streets-miss-ramadan-festivity-71.asp

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