NewDelhi: Four days before Eid Al-Adha, Muslims of Uttar Pradesh appear to be in a state of confusion over the celebration of their second most important festival. That there will be no Eid prayers in mosques and Eidgahs is a given. They have already experienced this during Eid Al-Fitr two months back when mosques were closed because of the Covid-induced lockdown. But this time around confusion, rather apprehension is about qurbani (sacrifice of animals) and the two-day weekly lockdown being followed in UP since early July. As the first day of Eid Al-Adha falls on Saturday, it has dampened the spirit of Eid festivities.
Urdu newspapers are full of reports from different cities in the state that suggest that Muslims are petitioning local administrations demanding relaxation in the lockdown. They are asking the government to either relax the lockdown during the coming week or shift it to some other days. Peace Party, which is quite popular in Muslim-dominated areas of western UP, has even petitioned the Allahabad High Court about this. The party has complained that by not relaxing the lockdown the government of Yogi Adityanath is demonstrating its anti-Muslim bias.
But even bigger concern of Muslims is how to fulfil the religious obligation of qurbani. The state government has issued no instructions. Instead, the Director-General of Police, Harish Chandra Awasthi, has sent a set of guidelines to all district police chiefs. The guidelines include instructions to maintain law and order during Eid Al Adha, as also a clause which says qurbani should not be done in the open. It should be done indoors or in closed areas and no public place be used for this purpose.
The clause of public place has raised many concerns. A debate is going on whether madrassas come under the definition of public place. Since cattle like buffalos can’t be slaughtered within the boundaries of a house, madrassa premises are used for this purpose. It is a source of income for charity-run institutions and also a source of plenty of meat for its students who come mainly from poor families. For those offering qurbani it’s economical as one buffalo has seven shares as against one in goat.
Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (Mahmood Madni group) has complained that police are needlessly harassing Muslims. Its president Maulana Qari Mohammad Usman Mansurpoori issued a statement on Tuesday saying he has received several written complaints from various parts of UP that the police are taking away sacrificial animals by force. District Administrations of Ghazipur, Ghaziabad and Bahraich, etc. have also banned all animal sacrifice, he said. Maulana Mansurpoori warned that if timely action was not taken, anarchy would prevail in the state and that might lead to serious law and order problems.
The UP government appears to be concerned more about anything else than ensuring that no cow is slaughtered in the state. In the peace committee meetings convened by local administrations in city after city, as per reports in the Urdu press, government officials are urging Muslims to desist from this. Muslims are also being told not to violate the social distancing norms of lockdown.
Muslims have their own concerns. In view of the lockdown, they will be forced to remain indoors even after saying their Eid prayerS at home. To sacrifice animals they would require butchers which would be hard to manage under the lockdown. Even if they manage to get a butcher and sacrifice animals, how they are going to fulfil the obligation of distributing meat among relatives and the poor is a major concern.
Another issue this year is of the availability of animals. Unlike in the past, temporary cattle markets in various cities have not opened. Small number of goats are being sold in Muslim neighbourhoods. Many Muslim leaders are blaming the government for not allowing cattle markets to operate. Advocate Zafaryab Jilani, a well-known Muslim leader based in Lucknow, however, told Clarion India that the government has nothing to do with the opening of the temporary market.
According to him, each year six to seven cattle traders join hands and lease an open space generally owned by municipality. This year, because of the lockdown they did not apply to municipalities. “They were not sure if they would get the returns on their investment. The government has no role in this. This is pure economics,” he said.