Two Muharram Processions Allowed in Kashmir Amid Strict Curbs
Archival image of a Muharram procession in Delhi used for representational purposes.
Archival image of a Muharram procession in Delhi used for representational purposes.(Photo: Danish Qazi / The Quint)

Two Muharram Processions Allowed in Kashmir Amid Strict Curbs

Notwithstanding the blanket ban on the public commemoration of the tragedy of Karbala across Kashmir Valley, two Ashura processions, with a sizeable attendance, were seen in Budgam and Srinagar districts, on the tenth day of Muharram on Tuesday, 10 September.

On this day of the lunar Islamic calendar, 14 centuries ago, Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hazrat Imam Hussain, sacrificed his life along with 71 companions, in the Battle of Karbala in Iraq.

For the first time in the last 50 odd years, the authorities had, last week, banned all Muharram gatherings and processions across the Valley.

Deputy Commissioners had told The Quint that the ban had been imposed “in apprehension of violence by miscreants”.

According to senior officials, Pakistan state actors, militants and separatists had been “desperately trying to create a law and order situation”, because right through the clampdown since 5 August, the Valley had (largely) remained calm (with a few exceptions), and no official reports of anyone having died as a direct result of action(s) by police / security forces had emerged in the last 35 days.

Also Read : Kashmir’s Shia Areas Face Curbs, All Muharram Processions Banned

After Reassessment of Situation, District’s Largest ‘Ashura’ Permitted

However, residents in interior Srinagar have been holding the Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) responsible for four deaths including that of Asrar Ahmad of Illahibagh Soura, who died at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura, nearly a month after sustaining pellet injuries on 6 August. On the other hand, one local truck driver was killed in an incident of stone-pelting in Bijbehara, and unidentified terrorists had shot dead three civilians, including a wholesaler, and also left four civilians injured in a shootout in Sopore in the past week.

Senior Superintendent of Police at Police Control Room in Srinagar, Shahid Meraj Rather, maintained that no untoward incident had been reported from anywhere in the Valley on Tuesday.

Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, Tariq Hussain Ganai, told The Quint that after reassessing the situation, the district’s largest Ashura procession, with Zuljanah, Alam and Tazia, was allowed on its traditional route from Imambargah of Mirgund, to the historic Imambargah of Budgam. He said that over 10,000 Shia Muslim mourners, including a large number of women, had participated in the procession while reciting Marsthiya Majalis (an elegy to remember Karbala) and Noha (Elegy depicting Hussein's martyrdom). It passed peacefully and culminated in Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gareebaan at Imambargah of Budgam.

Also Read : What is Muharram? Five Things to Know About Mourning on Ashura

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“Pro-Azadi Slogans Shouted During Ashura Processions”

Residents claimed, over the telephone, that over 20,000 mourners had participated in the Ashura procession from Mirgund to Budgam, even as President of Anjuman-e-Sharayi Shia’an and senior separatist leader Aga Syed Hassan and his two sons remained under house arrest. They said that normally five major processions had been drawn up every year on the tenth day of Muharram (called ‘Ashura’) in Budgam district, which has the largest Shia population out of all the ten districts in Kashmir.

“It was strictly a religious commemoration and there were no political slogans or banners in the procession. Along with hundreds of civilian volunteers, we had made the best possible security arrangements for the smooth passage of the procession,” Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, Mr Ganai said. He said that devout Shia Muslims organised indoor congregations with nightlong mourning at local Imambargahs.

However, permission was issued to only the largest Ashura procession from Mirgund to Budgam.

Those who were part of this procession, however, spoke to The Quint, and said, “Pro-Azadi slogans were shouted all through the procession from Imambargah Mirgund to Imambargah Budgam. There were no officers from the civil administration or police around, barring the tehsildar of Budgam, Ms Nusrat Aziz, who participated in the procession along with her two children. Among the slogans shouted were: ‘Hum kya chahte hai Azaadi; ‘Aay jabiro, aay zalimo, Kashmir humara chhor do.’

Also Read : In Photos: Shia Muslims Observe Muharram in Delhi

Detained Shia Leader Imran Raza Ansari Released for Some Days pf Muharram

Officials said that the main Alam and Zuljanah processions of the 8th and 10th Muharram days in Srinagar remained banned as per the tradition since 1988. However, it was for the first time that a blanket ban had been imposed on all open air Muharram processions across the Valley. Notwithstanding strict restrictions, over 10,000 Shia mourners took out a large Ashura procession under the auspices of the J&K Shia Association in the interior of Zadibal in downtown Srinagar.

President of Shia Association, former Minister and now a senior leader of J&K Peoples Conference, Imran Raza Ansari, has been released by the authorities for some days of Muharram.

He was among 50-odd mainstream political leaders who were detained at the Centaur Hotel near SKICC in Srinagar on 5 August.

Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan, Inspector General of Police Swayam Prakash Pani, government spokesman Rohit Kansal and Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, did not respond to phone calls from The Quint.

However, middle-rung officials said that the Ashura procession in Srinagar, which was not permitted on the main streets, passed through narrow lanes of Gazidori, Doonipora and Khushaal Sar, close to the historic Imambargah of Zadibal. Half-a-mile away, over a hundred mourners gathered on the main street at Alamgari Bazar in the afternoon. However, police and paramilitary forces dispersed them while firing teargas canisters. Residents said that dozens of gunshots were also fired in the air. It was not immediately clear if any of the mourners or those from the police or paramilitary forces had gotten injured in the brief clash.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based senior journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)

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