Srinagar: Majority of the people, including children, remained confined to their homes on the second day of Eid-ul-Fitr on Friday as strict restrictions continued due to ‘COVID curfew’ imposed amid unabated rise in the number of coronavirus positive cases and deaths in Kashmir valley.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration last week prolonged the ‘COVID curfew’, which was extended at least four times since April 29 till May 17 in all 20 districts of the Union Territory. The extension in the lockdown in the UT had come in the backdrop of unabated rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in J&K, particularly the summer capital, Srinagar, which has recorded the major chunk of positive cases during the last over a month. Srinagar alone, out of 4356 new Covid-19 cases in J&K, reported 872 cases on Thursday followed by Jammu with 624 cases. Of the 55 deaths recorded on Thursday in the UT, 20 were from Kashmir and 35 from Jammu, including three doctors. There are only two districts in Kashmir – Ganderbal and Shopian – were new positive cases featured in double digits on Thursday.
Eid-ul-Fitr celebration in Kashmir, where streets and markets used to remain abuzz with people — particularly children in colorful dresses — during this festival, was a low-key affair this year also with deserted streets and closed shops following COVID curfew. Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations were amiss last year also in view of the coronavirus-induced lockdown and in 2019 following strict curfew in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 and division of then Jammu and Kashmir State into two union territories. Eid players were not offered in most of the mosques and shrines in the valley as people preferred to offer the thanksgiving prayers inside their homes amid COVID-19 scare.
Children were most affected due to COVID curfew as they used to visit different gardens and markets on the first and second day of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the culmination of the fasting month of Ramazan. But this year, streets wore a deserted look as shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley, where security forces have closed the majority of the roads with barbed wires and barricades to stop the movement of people.
People greeted each other, including relatives, over the phones instead of visiting their homes due to COVID-19 scare following which children were disappointed as they didn’t receive ‘Eidi’ (a gift that is usually given to children by elder relatives and family friends as part of the Eid celebration). But, some people have now shifted to transferring Eidi (money) via online mode. “We are very disappointed that our relatives could not come to our house and give us Eidi. It (Eidi) is not just a gift, but it represents to love and affection of elders towards us. I pray to God that this pandemic is over soon so that we can once again freely meet our friends and relatives,” Arsalan Sofi, a class 9th student, told UNI.
Ifla Dar, an 8th class student, said that she was disappointed as she could not go out with her family to meet her relatives and other places this Eid. “I remember we used to go to our houses of our relatives on the first Eid and on the second day we used to go to different gardens and enjoy,” she said.
Similar views were expressed by other children and elders alike. “When we were children, we used to enjoy a lot and Eid celebrations would continue for days. But, unfortunately children in this era haven’t been able to experience the joys of life as we did. They are overburdened with studies, glued to mobile phones and have no experience of playing actual games on fields… On top of that they have been deprived of playing even during Eid as the pandemic is creating havoc across the country,” Nasir Ahmad, a businessman from Srinagar, told UNI.
All the roads and market places, including Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, remained sealed to prevent movement of people. Shops and businesses establishments remained closed though some vehicles, particularly two wheelers, were plying on roads in downtown, civil lines, uptown in Srinagar.
Reports of similar restrictions were coming from other parts of the valley, including Sopore, Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara in north and Shopian, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam in south Kashmir. Shops and business establishments were closed and roads wore a deserted look in these districts, where police parties were patrolling their respective areas to ensure strict implementation of the lockdown.
Business and other activities remained crippled in central Kashmir districts of Budgam and Ganderbal, where roads have been closed with barbed wires in most parts to prevent movement of vehicles and people.
On April 29, the Jammu and Kashmir administration imposed curfew in 11 districts to curtail the spread of COVID-19, which was subsequently extended to all the 20 districts in the Union Territory the next day. The curfew that was supposed to end on May 3 was extended in Srinagar, Budgam, Baramulla and Jammu till May 6. However, the Deputy Commissioners of the remaining seven districts in the valley extended the lockdown till May 6 separately. The COVID curfew was later extended till May 10 and then till May 17.
The administration last month ordered the closure of all universities, colleges, schools, and coaching centres in the Union Territory till May 15 though teaching and non-teaching staff was asked to attend schools and colleges. But, the J&K administration later allowed teaching and non-teaching staff to stay home in view of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir. The closure of the educational institutes was last week extended till May 30.
Teachers, however, are conducting online classes from home in the valley though many students alleged that they were unable to attend these classes due to non-availability of smart phones. The decision to allow teachers to take online classes from their respective homes was taken after many teaching and non teaching staff members of government schools tested positive for the virus in the Union Territory.