Srinagar: It is a sombre day on the picturesque Dal Lake in Srinagar. There are no tourists and there is no business. The shikaras are all empty and parked along the edges of the lake. Life has suddenly come to a standstill.
Though there was a relaxation in some restrictions in Srinagar on Sunday, which enabled people to move out of their houses and buy provisions for Eid, the usual buzz and air of festivity was not there. Because instead of shopping and preparing for Eid, residents were buying provisions to stock up on essential commodities.
According to News 18, those either studying or working outside Kashmir would usually visit their families on Eid. But this time, most of them have refrained from coming back home for the festival. Those who have been able to contact their children studying outside have warned them, “Don't come on Eid.”
The trading community in Srinagar has suffered an estimated loss of Rs 1,000 crore in the past week due to the restrictions. "The average loss of business per day in Kashmir is to the tune of at least Rs 175 crore,’’ a member of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said.
"Bakeries and livestock dealers have been the worst-hit as people are not able to come out of their homes to make purchases. The bakery owners stand to suffer losses to the tune of Rs 200 crore as their products have a lesser shelf life," he said.
A bakery owner in Karan Nagar area of the city said he alone stands to lose around Rs one crore. "I have an inventory of Rs 50 lakh and overhead costs of Rs 20 lakh. Since there are no sales to account for, the interest on bank loans will break the back of my business," he said.
Bashir Ahmed, a livestock dealer, hailing from Poonch, had come to Kashmir with his herd of goats and sheep in the hope of making some good money on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, but he said he might have to take most of them back with him.
"Last year around this time, I had sold off all my herd and was headed home to celebrate Eid with my family. This year I have sold only 15 of the 200-odd goats I had brought along," Ahmad said.
Likewise, roadside vendors, who dot the landscape from TRC crossing to Polo View, have also been badly hit as they have not been allowed to set up stalls on the eve of Eid
Hundreds of non-Kashmiris, mostly labourers, are converging at the TRC, or the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar, to inquire about buses that are leaving the state.
Curfew and a communication blackout has created insecurity among the migrants, who are unsure when the situation will normalise. According to government figures, 50,000 migrant workers have already fled Kashmir.
Imran and Arif from Uttar Pradesh are among those leaving the Valley. The two friends come to Kashmir every year for making mattresses and quilts. They had to cut their visit short.
Unsure about their safety in Kashmir and living under constant curfew is just unbearable for the two and they are not sure about their return.
"We are very worried, leaving at this juncture is a big business loss for us, but at least we will be safe out of here," said Imran. "We are unsure when we will return, we can only return when peace and normalcy returns to Kashmir," Arif added.
Mohammad Younis, 47, lives by the Dal Lake. He has grown up watching Bollywood film shootings in Kashmir. Today he returned to the lake with his seven and eight year old sons, not for watching any film shoots, but just to witness its wilderness.
A distraught Younis is worried about the future of his children. He is distressed after the Centre on August 5 scrapped Article 370 of the Constitution that guaranteed special powers to Jammu and Kashmir.
"When we woke up to a curfew in the morning, it was feeling of sorrow and grief. I am worried about my young children. What will they do when they grow up?" Younis said.
By ZAFFAR IQBAL