Srinagar: Police on Friday imposed strict restrictions in various parts of Srinagar to prevent Shia Muslims from taking out a Muharram procession in the civil lines areas.
Scores of youth of the Shia community from various areas like Kenhima, Chattergham, Harwan, Chotta Bazar and Chattabal appeared in Batamaloo, near the fire station. They tried to take out a procession towards Lal Chowk to mark the eighth day of the holy month of Muharram, two days before the commemoration of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom in Karbala 1400 years ago.
The police, however, did not allow the mourners to proceed further and detained several youth to ‘maintain law and order situation’. “The decision of not allowing the procession was taken by the state authorities in a meeting on Thursday night. It was decided that to maintain law and order, mourners will be allowed to take out processions through traditional routes,” a police officer on duty told Kashmir Reader.
Muharram processions in the city have been banned ever since 1990 when armed militancy erupted in the Kashmir valley. The Shia community has been asking for revocation of the ban, thus allowing them to take out ‘religious processions’ in the city, but the authorities have been turning down their requests citing law and order problems.
“It’s unfortunate that despite Jammu and Kashmir being a Muslim majority state, we are not allowed to take out processions. We have been observing that during the Amarnath Yatra, the government makes special arrangements for the Amarnath pilgrims, but when it comes to us, we are denied our rights,” one of the youths from Chotta Bazar told media persons.
Reports of mourners attempting to take out processions also came from places in Srinagar like Abi Guzar and Batamaloo.
In Jahangir Chowk, despite heavy police deployment, scores of youth from the Shia community tried to defy the restrictions. They removed barbed wire near Jahangir Hotel and attempted to move towards Shaheed Gunj, from where they had planned to take out a mega procession towards Imam Bada at Dal Gate where the major congregation was supposed to take place.
Eyewitness told Kashmir Reader that the moment the youth removed the barbed wire, the police chased them and restored traffic movement. “Around a dozen youth were arrested near the flyover. The police literally dragged them into their vehicles, a few people requested the policemen to let them go, but they did not listen,” a pedestrian told Kashmir Reader.
Another attempt at taking out a procession from Lal Chowk was led by Nissar Hussain Rather, head of the Tehreek-i-Mazhamat, a constituent of the Hurriyat Conference (G). He along with his group was taken into preventive custody near Exchange Road when he began to move toward Dalgate.
In Dalgate, the police used stun grenades and pepper gas every time the mourners assembled in large numbers. Public transport movement in the area remained suspended, but a thin movement of private vehicles was witnessed. Mourners, however, were allowed to hold processions in the evening on the main road in Dal Gate. Scores of men, women and children took part and took out various mourning processions from Imam Bada.