Srinagar, July 27 - Despite appeals for austerity by religious and social groups, frenzied Eid shopping started Sunday here two days ahead of the festival, with sellers dictating the prices.
Markets are full of edibles, including mutton, poultry, eggs and festive merchandise like firecrackers and toys for children, garments for families and jewellery for the rich.
Despite a public holiday Sunday, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank kept all its branches open in the state so that customers could withdraw heavy amounts and transact businesses not normally possible through ATM cards.
Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated Tuesday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims throughout the world become self-indulgent after successful completion of Ramadan during which they observe dawn to dusk fast.
The month comes handy for greedy traders in Kashmir. Mutton, poultry, eggs, bakery and garments are usually the items where availability on Eid is generally believed to be more important than fair prices.
I saw people literally hanging from mutton shops in the city to buy mutton while it is still two days to Eid.
The mutton sellers are sitting like monarchs across their chopping blocks. Bakery sellers are passing on loads of bakery to buyers who have no time to check goods before they part with their money.
Believe me, it must be taking the mint more time to print currency than it takes the bakery seller to pocket it in Srinagar on Eid eve, said Rafiq Qadri, 62, a retired public sector executive here.
Qadri said buying fruit was out of the question for the ordinary citizen as fruit prices were already sky high.
In such a situation, the oft-repeated claims of the state government that market checking squads have been deployed to keep prices with reasonable limits is widely seen as a joke.
What market checking are they doing? I moved everywhere in Civil Lines area. I found two adjacent shops pricing the same stuff differently, complained Bashir Ahmad, 38, a driver by profession.
The financial crunch the state government is facing is believed to have somewhat dampened the festivities.
My bills amounting to Rs.15 lakh have been pending with the government for over one year. They say there are no funds.
I owe money to labourers and many others... What face do I show those people on Eid? asked an angry Abdul Gani Mir, 58, a contractor from Saidpora Hamchi on Srinagar's outskirts.
One really heartening thing about Eid festivities in Kashmir is that the locals are making valuable donations to orphans, widows and other underprivileged sections.
This is perhaps because people have better economic strength and they have seen tragedy from close quarters during the last two decades in Kashmir, said Khwaja Nisar Hussain, 63.
As devout Muslims, it is our duty to take care of the less privileged in the society during festivals and also during normal times, added Hussain, a retired chief engineer.
But the divine order is that the left hand should not know what the right hand gives away in charity. That is the spirit of Islam, and charity and philanthropy must always be done in this spirit.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at email@example.com)
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