Kashmir: Flood-hit Region Observes Ramadan

Category: Asia, Featured, Videos, World Affairs Topics: Kashmir, Ramadan
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As Muslims around the world observe the Holy month of Ramadan with fasting and feasting, many in Indian-administered Kashmir are still struggling to cope with the aftermath of last year's devastating floods.

Flooding in the Himalayan region last September left over 200 people dead and thousands more homeless.

In Srinagar, the capital city of India's only Muslim majority region, the grand mosque is filled with devout Muslims who gather every day to offer prayers and seek blessings, forgiveness and mercy.

During the Holy month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink and other pleasures from sunrise to sunset.

Ramadan is also believed to be a time for reflection, charity and remembering the hardships of others.

The past year has been a challenging one for many here. 

They battled unprecedented floods last September, followed by a severely crippled economy.

"The holy month of Ramadan is divided as ten days of blessing, ten days of mercy and ten days of forgiveness," explains the muezzin at the grand mosque, Muhammad Yaseen Shah.

"The floods that hit the Kashmir valley have caused distress to a lot of people. People are heartbroken these days and visit mosques for prayers, particularly the Jamia Masjid during Zuhr and Asar Prayers."

During the September floods, over 200 people lost their lives and infrastructure worth billions of dollars was destroyed.

Shops, hundreds of bridges and at least 100,000 homes were destroyed - another 150,000 homes were damaged.

Riyaz Ahmad Bhat is among the tens of thousands of Kashmiris still struggling to rebuild their lives.

His former home in Budgam on the outskirts of Srinagar now lies in ruins. He's been living in a temporary tin shed ever since flood waters ravaged the area.

The shadow of all that's been lost hangs heavy over the family gathering as Bhat's mother prepares food for Iftar, the time to break the daily fast.

"There is a huge difference between previous year's Ramadan and this year's Ramadan," says Bhat.

"Last Ramadan we were living in our home happily, but this year we have to live in a tin shed that was erected after floods hit our home. That was Almighty's wrath, 24 family members have taken shelter in this shed. This Ramadan we are facing a lot of problems as no facilities are available. We would turn to Almighty Allah again and ask him to give back what he took away from us. Only he can give it back to us."

Ramadan is also a time for families and friends to gather for elaborate Iftar meals.

In Srinagar, markets are beginning to fill with shoppers in search of meat, dry fruits and other festive goods.

Among the best-selling items are different varieties of dates, they've been brought to Kashmir from elsewhere in India and abroad. 

Shopkeepers in Srinagar say business has been slow since last year's floods with a steep decline in the purchasing power of locals.

"This year, there is hardly any business. When people don't have money, how would we do business?" asks shopkeeper, Abdul Rashid Wani.

"People are reconstructing their homes and shops, they don't have enough for their homes, they lost everything to floods so what can they spend on these dry fruits, on these dates? Government has not provided any relief."

Srinagar bread maker, Owais Ahmad, has been in this family business for nearly 20 years.

The Ramadan season leading up to Eid is usually peak business time for him with people coming from all over Indian-administered Kashmir to buy flat bread.

This time around, Ahmad is selling his bread at discount prices.

"This is the month of blessing, mercy and forgiveness," he says.


  Category: Asia, Featured, Videos, World Affairs
  Topics: Kashmir, Ramadan

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