Indian government bans Muharram processions in Kashmir

Protesters throwing stones in Srinagar, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, on Thursday.Photo Credit Atul Loke for The New York Times

Srinagar, Sep 10: Muharram processions are banned in the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu and Kashmir authorities have reimposed strict restrictions in Srinagar on Tuesday after clashes between security forces and Shhite Muslims taking part in the procession.The Modi government is fearing that the religious processions would convert into anti-India protests.

At least 12 Kashmiris and six troops were reportedly injured when the mourners of Muharram clashed with troops who tried to stop them.Police used tear gas, pellet guns and brutally baton charged them. One journalist received pellet injuries and four journalists were injured after the police charged against media professionals in Srinagar’s Hassan Abad locality for covering Muharram procession.

On Muharram, Shia Muslims observe the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein that occurred 1,400-years ago in Karbala (modern day Iraq) . Since then Shia Muslims across the world and in Kashmir mourn relentlessly in the first 10 days of new Islamic year that begins with the month of Muharram.

Muharram is the first month of the year according to the Muslim lunar calendar, and traditionally processions are held for the first 10 days of the month to observe the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein, killed in battle in 680.

Ashura , the 10th day of the mourning and most revered day for the Shia community, falls on Tuesday.

However, authorities have imposed complete restrictions and the security establishment in Jammu and Kashmir which is trying hard to maintain law and order in the Valley since the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August, is stopping SHia Muslims from taking processions.

This ban will instill frustration in the shia community ,therefore, black flags and the banners with prayers have been put up on the road sides and streetlights.

The police have sealed roads leading to Srinagar and roads are manned by paramilitary and police personnel while banning Muharram processions in the Kashmir Valley. Curfew-like restrictions have been imposed and neither the vehicles are allowed nor people to pass through.

Barricades have been placed at about every 500 meters, with coils of concertina wire spread across.

The curfew or restriction during Muharram has never been imposed before, even in 1990s. But this time no procession is being allowed, even within the small localities.

Curfew has been imposed in several parts of Kashmir amid a growing crackdown across the contested territory. “Section 144 of the CrPC is in place in order to avoid any loss to life and property, the government has decided that no procession shall be allowed in district Srinagar on Muharram  on September 8, 9, 10 respectively,” said the government order.

“People are advised to stay indoors and not venture out of their home otherwise Strict action under law will be taken against violators,” police announced over loudspeakers in the Lal Chowk square in Srinagar. “

Government has been justifying the clampdown in Kashmir since August to prevent large scale violent protests .

By Arti Bali

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