Asia

Kashmir eases COVID_19 lockdown, religious gatherings remain banned

Indian-controlled Kashmir has reopened after an unprecedented lockdown. This comes as large religious gatherings and processions are still banned in the region.

As pandemic lockdown began to ease in Indian-controlled Kashmir, people are making the most of their newfound freedom. Hustle and bustle has returned to the streets in the region’s capital city after remaining deserted for months. Unlike other parts of the world, Kashmir experienced a more prolonged lockdown.

On August 5 last year, India’s Hindu nationalist government headed by Narendra Modi stripped Kashmir of its autonomy and downsized the status of India’s only Muslim majority state into two federally governed territories. This was followed by crackdown on the political leadership and imposition of strict lockdown.

Though the authorities have also ordered opening of religious centers, large gatherings still remain banned. As a result, following instructions by major religious leaders, Kashmiris are preparing for mourning ceremonies during the Islamic month of Muharram by holding small processions within health protocols.

Banners and billboards have come up saying glowing tribute to Imam Hussain the third Shia Imam and the grandson of the Islamic prophet during Muharram. But a major question lingering in the minds of Muslims in Kashmir is that regardless of pandemic, why major mourning ceremonies are still banned.

The major mourning processions of Muharram remains banned in Kashmir since the outbreak of armed struggle in late 1980s. The region’s religious leaders cutting across ideological divide have long been demanding lifting of the ban but the authorities continue to turn a blind eye.

Kashmiris say if the authorities can allow Hindu religious processions in Kashmir, why can’t they allow Muharram processions. Every year, scores of mourners are thrashed by state police and not allowed to take out Muharram processions in the heart of the region’s capital city.

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