Several Shia mourners were detained as they clashed with the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Police and paramilitary forces in Srinagar on the 8th day of Muharram on Tuesday.
Defying restrictions on converging at the commercial hub of Lal Chowk, the mourners, with several of them carrying ‘Free Kashmir’ placards, tried to cross police barricades and concertina wires. In the ensuing clash, the police used tear gas and detained several mourners. Journalists covering the procession alleged that they were thrashed by the police.
Earlier this month, the J&K administration had lifted the ban on Muharram processions, invoked since militancy surfaced in 1989. Several religious bodies, including the one led by Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) politician Imran Ansari, had welcomed the move. Others, including National Conference Shia leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi, however, had viewed the decision with ‘suspicion.’
In the first ten days of Muharram, Shia Muslims across the world mourn the killing of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain by Umayyad forces in the battle of Karbala around 680 AD.
“Nothing has changed even after centuries. The kind of people who killed Imam Hussain mercilessly exist even today. They are doing the same to us in Kashmir. Therefore, it is all the more important to raise our voice and support the oppressed,” a Shia mourner from Abi Guzar told Newsclick.
One of the journalists who were allegedly thrashed by the police claimed that his equipment was damaged. “The police beat us up without any reason while we were taking pictures of the detained mourners,” a photojournalist told Newsclick.
The ‘attack’ on journalists was widely condemned by the media fraternity and political parties. A video of the alleged attack was also circulated on social media platforms.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Very unfortunate to see J&K police personnel mercilessly thrashing journalists in Srinagar. These people were simply doing their jobs - reporting the news. They don’t make the news & they don’t engineer events to create the story. I hope @OfficeOfLGJandK will ensure no repeat.”
“Merciless beating of journalists is highly condemnable. We express serious concern over such repeated acts of use of force on the media fraternity without any accountability. Surprisingly the upholders of the law are out to demolish the founding principles of law,” the JKPC tweeted.