How scattered heads and hides dulled Eid mood in Kashmir

Since a few years, it has become more common to throw hides and carcasses of sacrificial animals on the roadside. And every year, a troubling video breaks records on the internet that puts the society to shame. 

Disturbing visuals amid festive vibes instantly turned mood morose in Kashmir. A street dog with a severed sheep head became a comment of Kashmir’s casual celebration this Eid. The dog act was followed by a dumper teeming with hallowed heads and hides. 

While the timing of these visuals remains crucial—given how they activated the disgruntling voices against the sanctified act, the culture of waste management came under sharp scrutiny. 

Every year, as the festivities of Eid ul Adha subside, we are greeted with visuals that are discomforting and hurtful, offering a reflection of how we fail as a society- as a Muslim community, and mock the very teachings that our religion has to offer. 

Earlier in 2020, a video shot by a journalist showed heaps of animal hides lying on roadside outside Eidgah– the largest prayer ground in Srinagar where congregational Eid prayers were offered every year until they were barred in 2019. 

On Eid, every year, Kashmir produces tonnes of animal waste which was usually dumped in pits or handed over to Bayt al Mals in Kashmir. But that is changing. 

Since a few years, it has become more common to throw hides and carcasses of sacrificial animals on the roadside. And every year, a troubling video breaks records on the internet that puts the society to shame. 

These videos further play in the hands of islamophobes, waiting to mock our religion and our practices. 

In 2021, a twitter user uploaded a video of an elderly person dumping animal hide into Dal Lake. The videographer started a conversation with the man, informing him that Srinagar Municipal Corporation comes to collect hides if you call them, to which the man nods and hurriedly leaves, saying the hide was from a sacrificial animal and it is prohibited to throw it on the roadside. 

Ironically, the man was aware enough to know that throwing it on the roadside would be disrespectful to the sacrificed animal, yet dumped it into a river, where it would float and stink, for days to come. 

To this, the netizen said that he could have dug a pit at home and buried it. And the man responded saying, “Walle, kenh chun parvai.” The phrase came with an acceptance that what he did was wrong, but need not be rectified. 

This year once again, we hit a hat-trick of shame, as another video went viral on Instagram. In the video, one can see heads and hides of sacrificed animals put on a dustbin on the roadside. The man capturing the video is also speaking in the video, expressing his anger. His words are fierce, and he addresses it to the people who threw the hides in dustbins. 

“You sacrificed it for Sunnah, but threw the heads of the animals you sacrificed for Allah like this. You should come here and clean this, and pray for forgiveness.” 

These visuals are disturbing and disrespectful, and go against the teachings of Islam. 

Why is there an uptick in roadside throwing?

A few years ago, animal hides were donated to several organizations, mostly Bayt al Mals, who would later sell each hide for about 400 bucks and the money raised would be provided as loans to families in need. But over the course of several years, as the cow vigilantism increased in India, it indirectly or directly impacted Bayt al Mals. 

As per the raw skin dealers of Kashmir, the hides collected in Kashmir on Eid al Adha were sent to Uttar Pradesh for tanning. But in 2018, several tanneries were shut by UP’s Yogi Government.

A 2019 report by Times of India revealed, “In mid-November 2018, around 300 tanneries operating in Kanpur, Unnao and Banthar were closed down ahead of the Kumbh as the district administration felt the industry failed to ensure effluent treatment before discharge. It’s another thing the UP government failed to provide any infrastructure back-up to the leather industry.”

Earlier, it was said that these tanneries would function after Kumbh Mela, but there was no such development. 

This year, Dalit-owned tanneries were demolished in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat region, causing a further blow to the industry, affecting about a hundred families. 

As the tanneries were forced out of business, the demand for the raw hides from Kashmir drastically fell. Those who would buy from Kanpur are now turning to Pakistan and Bangladesh for raw material. 

How to deal with the menace? 

As the situation in India remains grim, and Muslims are pushed to the edge, the tanneries are unlikely to resume work any time soon, and meanwhile what Kashmir needs to come up with is a plan of its own. 

As per the figures shared by Srinagar Municipal Corporation, the state generated 93 metric tonnes of animal waste this Eid, excluding what was dumped in rivers or roadsides. 

This year, however, SRO, a charity organisation based in Srinagar, too pitched in citing “ecological concerns” as the reason. 

While talking to Free Press Kashmir, Afaq Syeed, who runs SRO Batmaloo said that the SRO team collected 3000 animal hides on the first two days of Eid at three various collection points in Srinagar. 

“This is our religious and social obligation to treat or dump animal hides properly, or it breaches the whole purpose of sacrifice. So we have come up with this initiative for a few years where we collect the hides and give them to a dealer,” he said. 

“We do it as a pro bono service, and just so that people avoid throwing it in drains or roadsides. However, given how much waste is produced in Kashmir alone, we should have an industry or tannery in Kashmir, but we have to make sure these do not further pollute the environment and are ecologically safe.” 

There is also a need for self-awareness, many argue: “Dumping garbage or carcasses is still an everyday practice in the city and needs to be changed.”

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