In the Sangiote village situated in Poonch district in J&K near the Line of Control that divides J&K and Pakistan occupied Kashmir [PoK], this year’s Eid that fell on Saturday was a solemn affair. While its residents offered Eid prayers, there were no follow-up celebrations. Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan’s month-long period of dawn-to-dusk fasting is celebrated with religious fervour by Muslims all over the world. On this day, after offering special Eid prayers at mosques or open spaces, gifts are exchanged and food is shared with family members and friends. Being a time for forgiveness and celebration, Eid is a joyous occasion which all Muslims anxiously look forward to.
Why there was no Eid celebration in the Sanigote village at Poonch? Just two days ago, an army vehicle was ambushed by Pakistan backed terrorists, resulting in five fatalities and one critical injury. At a time when being overtly self-centered has become an accepted norm, this remarkable display of collective solidarity is not only worthy of appreciation but also needs to be told. Being in close proximity to the Line of Control [LoC] that divides J&K and Pakistan occupied Kashmir [PoK], Sangiote falls astride one of the transit routes used by terrorists while infiltrating from across the LoC. The thickly forested and rugged terrain here enables unobserved movement and as such facilitates infiltration.
Accordingly, a Rashtriya Rifles [RR] post has been established near Sangiote village as part of the Indian army’s anti-infiltration grid in order to keep the area under surveillance and thwart ISI’s nefarious designs of pushing in terrorists. While residents of Sangiote village go about their routine chores, troops of the RR post remain busy in maintaining a 24X7 vigil along their assigned area of responsibility. However, sharing the privations of this remote and inhospitable place has helped develop a strong bonding between the locals and RR personnel.
Since the men in uniform are forthcoming in assisting their fellow Kashmiris in times of need and treat villagers with due courtesy and respect, the locals consider soldiers as their true friends, reliable guardians and genuine well-wishers.
So, when news of Thursday’s attack on an army vehicle belonging to this post reached them, the villagers were shell-shocked and rushed to the site of the incident to offer any assistance in rescuing the victims.
However, since the army authorities had already done the needful before the locals could reach the site, they returned back dejected and the village elders went to the RR post to express condolences on behalf of the entire village. As the villagers turned-in for the night, a pall of gloom descended on Sangiote village, since there was a direct connection between the tragic incident in which five lives were lost and iftar [meal taken by Muslims at sundown to break the daily fast during Ramadan] function slated for that day.
The RR post at Sangiote had organised iftar for the villagers that very night, for which invitations had already been sent out and the vehicle which had been attacked by terrorists had gone to collect fruits and other food items for this auspicious occasion. This would have weighed heavily on the hearts of the villagers!
The sight of empty tents specially erected for iftar with their flaps gently fluttering in the night breeze must have further accentuated the atmosphere of grief. That the locals were genuinely distressed by the gruesome terrorist attack became evident the very next morning when they collectively decided not to observe Eid celebrations as a mark of respect for those soldiers who had lost their lives in Thursday’s terrorist attack and express solidarity with their grief-stricken family members.
This heartfelt expression of solidarity by residents of Sangiote village debunks Pakistan’s malicious propaganda that New Delhi’s writ runs in Kashmir only because of institutionalised brutalisation and repression by Indian security forces, and if Kashmiris are allowed to make a choice, they would opt to join Pakistan en masse. Readers would recall that in 2019, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Imran Khan used the United Nations General Assembly’s podium to unashamedly buttress this barefaced lie by alleging that Kashmiris were “caged like animals in homes”. This isn’t the first time that people have been killed during Ramadan in Kashmir. However, what could be probably a first here is that an entire village has voluntarily given their traditional Eid festivities a miss as a mark of respect for Indian army soldiers killed by terrorists. In 2017, just a few days before Eid, a Muslim police officer named Ayub Pandit was lynched by a local mob outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on ‘Laylat al-Qadr’ [The night of power], and the irony is that when this tragic incident occurred, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farook was busy addressing followers within the same mosque.
While the Mirwaiz cannot be in anyway be blamed for this incident, but being the heredity ‘Mirwaiz of Kashmir’ with his seat in Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, one had expected him to fulfil his moral responsibility and at least condemn this brutal killing that took place virtually at the doorsteps of this revered mosque. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and leave alone condemnation, Mirwaiz didn’t even consider it necessary to offer condolences to the slain police officer’s bereaved family, and the reasons for his stoic silence on this incident [which made Kashmiris hang their heads in shame] are obvious.
This is why the decision of Sangiote residents not to participate in Eid festivities as a mark of respect to the deceased soldiers even though they belonged to a different faith has made every Kashmiri proud, because this is what ‘Kashmiriyat’ is all about!