Srinagar: Authorities in Kashmir have imposed strict restrictions in various parts of the region to bar Shia mourners from carrying out any Muharram processions here on Friday, August 28.
The police and paramilitary personnel have fortified various Shia dominated areas of Srinagar city and also increased security checkpoints in several other areas including the commercial hub of Lal Chowk, which is part of the traditional route for procession on the eighth day of Muharram concludes.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole told NewsClick that the restrictions have been imposed in all districts of the Valley in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision rests with the district magistrates to allow private majaalis inside homes. “No congregational gatherings are to be allowed,” Pole said.
The checkpoints, manned by security personnel, have stopped the movement of private vehicles as well as public transport on many entry and exit points around Lal Chowk and old city of Srinagar. Many of these roads have been heavily barricaded with empty buses, mobile bunkers and concertina wires to restrict the public movement in general, which resulted in traffic jams around many of these checkposts.
In Kashmir, this is the second consecutive year that the Shia community will be barred to participate in any such congregational mourning, held on the first ten days of the new Islamic year which begins with the month of Muharram. Even as the major processions in the Valley have been banned since the 1990s due to the administration’s fear of the Muharram processions turning political that could lead to an outbreak of a ‘law and order’ situation, this time the restrictions have been imposed on smaller processions within localities as well.
Earlier last year, clashes broke out between mourners and police personnel in the wake of restrictions imposed in the aftermath of government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. The mourners alleged the police used excessive force to deal with the mourners, many of whom were injured.
The local residents in Old Srinagar city, however, allege that the authorities barring Muharram processions is part of a larger “persecution” being carried out against people of the region. “The government has been barring all such religious processions even before the pandemic which is being talked about everywhere in our localities. This time we are more inclined towards participating in Muharram gatherings because calling out the injustice is the essence of it,” a resident of Lal Bazar locality in Srinagar told NewsClick.
Also read: No Letup in Crisis as Restrictions Mark First Anniversary of Article 370 Abrogation in Kashmir
The beginning of the new Islamic calendar coincides with the Battle of Karbala around 680 AD when Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Husain was killed alongwith his family and followers by the army of Yazid, the then Ummayad Caliph of the Islamic empire. The discord was followed by the first major division among Muslims which then branched into two sects – Shias and Sunnis. The Shia Muslims around the world since then have been commemorating the incident every year, calling out the oppression of the Yazid’s army.
Pertinently, two youth have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for using anti-India slogans during a Muharram procession outside Srinagar earlier this week, the video of which was widely circulated on social media platforms like WhatsApp.
In a statement, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari, condemned the use of force by police against mourners during a Muharram procession in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The former minister termed the police action as an “unwanted interference in religious affairs” urging the police to refrain from such “unwarranted and reprehensible actions”.