The Valley on Friday celebrated Eid-i-Milad, marking the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad, with fervour despite confusion over the government’s declaration of the related public holiday a day before it was to be observed in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tens of thousands of people thronged major shrines, including Hazratbal, ignoring the purported design of the Jammu and Kashmir government to make people celebrate the festival on Thursday along with many other parts of the country.
Eid-I-Milad festivities at Hazratbal and some other shrines in the Valley continue for weeks. There is traditionally a public holiday on two days during the festival — the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awal, a month of the Islamic calendar, and the Friday following the Milad.
On Tuesday, the government stirred a row by declaring a public holiday on Thursday (11th of Rabi-ul-Awal which coincides with September 28), although it was to fall on Friday (12th of Rabi-ul-Awal). Several other state governments had also declared the public holiday on Thursday as the Rabi-ul-Awal moon was sighted there a day earlier, but not in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government stuck to the Thursday holiday and brought forward by a week the Friday holiday that was to fall on October 6 had the Jammu and Kashmir schedule been followed. As a result, there were two successive public holidays in Jammu and Kashmir. It is not clear whether there will be any public holiday next Friday in keeping with the Jammu and Kashmir schedule of celebrating Milad on September 29.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who offered Friday prayers at Hazratbal, threw down the gauntlet to the government, asking it to change the festival dates of other communities.
“The festival is today but they announced the holiday yesterday. Why? We all knew in advance the festival was on Friday. What was the purpose of bringing the holiday forward? Let them do it with other festivals. Let the Diwali holiday this year be a day ahead of the festival, let’s see,” the National Conference leader told reporters at Hazratbal. “These things show they don’t respect our sentiments even a bit.”
The issue has also brought the focus back on media freedom, with the National Conference complaining that the government forced news portals to pull down videos in which they had criticised the Jammu and Kashmir dispensation over the festival dates.
“Instead of making amends, the videos were removed forcibly from these channels (portals),” Omar claimed.