CHENNAI: Ever since Kashmir was placed under lockdown a week ago, Irfan Ahmed has only been anxious over what happened to his family of six women; his mother and sisters.
“It pains me to see people celebrating on Facebook and sharing WhatsApp messages, talking ill of Kashmiri women,’’ he says.
While all the shops in Chennai were closed on the occasion of Eid, clad in simple clothes, like Irfan, the 200 Kashmiri Muslim men in Spencer Plaza went about their daily work of selling art items, clothes, and jewels. They were in no position to celebrate Eid on Monday.
With all communication and transport facilities to Kashmir cut off, the community in Chennai were left stranded, neither able to go home nor communicate with their dear ones.
“It is our festival but none of us are happy. None of us are celebrating,’’ says 25-year-old Irfan.
He adds that Eid is not just about celebrations but people’s livelihood. “On this day, people sell food items and earn a little money. Now, they don’t get that money also.’’
In the past week, many cancelled their tickets to Kashmir before Eid, while some of them went up to Delhi and had to return to Chennai after knowing there is no flight further.
“The Indian government has put Kashmir people in pain. We have not had this kind of an Eid ever in our life,’’ says Firdouz Ahmed (34), another Kashmiri in Spencer. Firdouz’s family has 16 members and he has no clue what has happened to them in Kashmir.
Firdouz does not believe what comes on television news channels and WhatsApp forwards, to be true.
“The TV channels lie that there is peace and calm in Kashmir. But in reality, people are suffering inside, stuck at home in curfew, not able to celebrate Eid,’’ says Firdouz (34), who has been in Chennai for 14 years.
“You can’t lockdown 12 million people at one go. It’s a murder of democracy.’’
A few Kashmiri men wore black shirts on the occasion to register their protest. One of them was Ijaz Ahmed (30), whose engagement was supposed to be held on August 8 but got cancelled after the Kashmir crisis.
‘’I couldn’t go there to meet my fiancé. I am eager to talk to my family members,’’ says Ijaz. He explains that Eid is not just about the self-celebrations.
“We do charity and donate many things to poor people,’’ adds Ijaz, who has been here for 15 years.
Meanwhile, the Kashmiri community in Chennai strongly condemned the government’s move to turn Kashmir into a union territory.
“They (Union government) want to rule the land and it’s not for the development of the State,’’ says Ijaz.
“Our State may not be as developed as other States in India but is surely better than many states in the North.’’
The Kashmiris rued that the move to bifurcate the State should have never happened and was not democratic. “Kashmiris are against this. We are not happy,’’ adds Ijaz.
Meanwhile, Irfan said, “We have lost everything we fought for 70 years. Curfews will not stop us and there will be protests.’’
Though the long isolation of Kashmir has no signs of receding anytime soon, the Kashmiris in Chennai hope that abrogation of Article 370 and 35A would be challenged in the higher courts.