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Back to mosques: Kashmir welcomes Ramadan with caution amid Covid spike

Srinagar: Fifty-five-year-old Abdul Rauf had never missed praying ‘tarawih’ in a mosque during the fasting month of Ramadhan till last year.

The Covid-19 lockdown had then thrown life completely out of gear across the globe. But, Rauf is now glad to be able to offer ‘namaz’ in mosques this Ramadhan amid strict adherence to Covid safety protocols.

“Last year in Ramadhan, we could only hear an ‘azaan’ but were unable to go to the mosque. It was heartbreaking. Till then, I had never missed the ‘tarawih’ prayer in mosques. However, I am glad that prayers are allowed in mosques this year. I have also noticed that people are praying while keeping spaces in between rows. I hope that the people continue to follow Covid safety protocols,” said Rauf, a resident of Batamaloo area.

Last Ramadhan, only the ‘imam’, ‘muezzin’ and caretakers were allowed to pray at the mosques due to the Covid lockdown.

Photo : Umar Ganie/KM

Even as there was confusion over the holding of ‘Tarawih’ and ‘Fajr’ this year due to the Covid-19 night curfew, the Wakf Board and mosque committees like the Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid later issued strict guidelines for prayers in Ramadhan.

Maulvi Iftikhar, a cleric of uptown Rawalpora area, said they had put ‘cross marks’ in praying rows of the local mosque to ensure adherence to Covid-19 safety norms.

“We have put taped cross marks in between prayer-mats so that people maintain physical distancing during namaz. Before prayers, I also make an announcement and ask to maintain adequate distance while offering namaz,” he said.

Though mosques were seen following Covid safety protocols, the markets presented a different picture. A good rush of people was seen at the roadsides for ‘iftar’ shopping. The shopkeepers, however, said they missed the traditional buzz associated with the markets in Ramadhan.

Photo : Umar Ganie/KM

“One can see a rush of people to buy dates, fruits, etc for iftar but otherwise, the markets are dull and sales are depressed. Last Ramadhan we had a lockdown and we suffered huge losses. We can only pray that the number of Covid-19 positive cases come down and that there is no lockdown. Only then we can hope of doing good business ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr,” said Kashmir Trade Alliance (KTA) president Aijaz Shahdhar.

As per a KTA report, successive lockdowns since August, 2019 had dented Kashmir region’s economy by over Rs. 45,000 cr. Markets in the Valley had first remained shut for months after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 in 2019. And just when economic activities had started picking up last year, the Covid-19 lockdown started from March 18.