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Curbs on Muharram procession, Shia mourners teargassed in Srinagar

srinagarDespite a peaceful summer, the J&K government on Sunday took no chance and continued with its tough policy on Shia Muslims’ Muharram procession. Uptown Srinagar’s two police stations were placed under undeclared curfew and the police lobbed tear gas shells at mourners and arrested dozens in an attempt to scuttle any procession on the traditional route in Srinagar.

A clash broke out near Jehangeer Chowk adjacent to commercial hub Lal Chowk when Shia Muslims converged there in the afternoon and started a procession, banned by the authorities in 1990 when an armed rebellion broke out in the state. The police fired tear smoke shells and rounded up several Shia mourners to quell the procession. Moderate Hurriyat leader Abbas Ansari’s son was also arrested by the police in the clampdown.

 

Earlier in the day, the authorities had put strict restriction on movement of people and vehicles by placing iron barricades and concertina wires in and around Lal Chowk. Heavy deployments were also made in downtown Srinagar area, traditionally a separatist bastion. There were reports of minor clashes in downtown Srinagar on the occasion. The police said there were no reports of injuries till 5 pm.

Traditionally, Shia Muslims would march from Guru Bazzar and proceed through Lal Chowk. The procession would culminate at Dalgate, on the extreme end of Lal Chowk.”Restrictions had to be imposed in the areas as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order,” SSP Srinagar Ashiq Bukhari told the Press.

The J-K administration has banned Muharram procession in uptown Srinagar since 1990s. Most such processions turned into pro-freedom protests in early 1990s forcing the state government to ban such congregations.

The ban, however, was challenged by Shia cleric and separatist organization Ithaad-ul-Muslimeen chief Maulana Abbas Ansari in Srinagar’s High Court. There is a complete ban on the mid-city processions of the 8th and Ashura (10th Muharram) in Srinagar.

The authorities, however, allowed small procession at Zadibal, Dalgate and Bagwanpora. Additional troops were deployed at all Shia-majority localities and areas.

Both the factions of Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Geelani, have condemned the state government’s “interference with religious duties of Muslims in Kashmir”.

 “The state government spends crores of rupees on smooth functioning of the Amarnath yatra and the Kheer Bhawani festival. Extensive security is put in place to allow the religious congregations. But when it comes to Muharram processions and Friday prayers, the state government imposes curfew,” lamented Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front faction’s chief Javeed Mir.

Shia Muslims observe mourning in the first ten days of Moharram, Islamic calendar’s first month, to pay tributes to all those who laid down their lives during a war for Islamic cause during Prophet Muhammad’s time.

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