SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Muslims across India marked Eid al-Fitr on Tuesday by offering prayers outside mosques, even as the celebrations this year came in the backdrop of a series of recent attacks against the community during the month of Ramadan.
“We will not have the same kind of festivity” this time, said Mohammad Habeeb ur Rehman, a civil engineer in India’s financial capital, Mumbai. “This is the most painful Eid with worst memories for Indian Muslims,” he added.
Anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks have surged across the country in the last month, including stone throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups during religious processions and subsequent demolitions of a number of properties mostly belonging to Muslims by authorities.
The community, which makes up 14% of India’s 1.4 billion population, is reeling from vilification by hard-line Hindu nationalists who have long espoused an anti-Muslim stance. Some leaders of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have tacitly supported the violence, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far been silent about it.
Eid al-Fitr is typically marked with communal prayers, celebratory gatherings around festive meals and new clothes, but celebrations in India for the past two years have been marred by COVID-19 restrictions.
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, the Muslim festival has been subdued for the past three years because of an unprecedented military lockdown after India stripped the region’s semi-autonomy in 2019, followed by the pandemic. The region also saw a rise in violence during Ramadan, with at least 20 militants, two civilians and five police and soldiers killed.
“As we prepare to celebrate Eid, a strong sense of collective loss jars at us,” said Bashir Ahmed, a businessman in Srinagar.
Kashmir is the Muslim-majority disputed region where a violent insurgency against Indian rule and New Delhi’s brutal crackdown has raged for over three decades. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.
Meanwhile in the capital, New Delhi, hundreds assembled in the Jama Masjid, one of India’s largest mosques, while offering Eid prayers there for the first time in over two years due to pandemic restrictions. Families came together early on Tuesday morning while many people shared hugs and wishes.
Mohammed Hamid, a software engineer, said he was grateful to be offering prayers at the mosque again.
“It’s a good feeling because there was a lockdown for the past two years. With the grace of God, we are able to offer Eid prayers here with the children and we are thankful,” Hamid said.
The mood was cheerful in neighboring Bangladesh as millions traveled from the cities to towns and villages over the weekend to celebrate Eid. Huge crowds were seen in capital Dhaka’s main Kamalapur Railway Station and bus terminals.
Like in India, Eid celebrations in Bangladesh for the last two years have been muted due to the pandemic. But this year, the government hasn’t imposed restrictions, instead advising people to follow basic health protocols.
Khaleda Akter, a garment worker in Dhaka, said she was going to be traveling to her village and was excited to celebrate with her parents.
“I am very glad that this year we can travel without any trouble,” she said.
AP journalists Rishi Lekhi in New Delhi and Julhas Alam in Dhaka contributed.