Srinagar: Police on Sunday used batons and fired teargas canisters to quell Muharram processions in uptown areas of this capital city, where curfew-like restrictions were imposed by the authorities.
Muharram marks the martyrdom anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain and his 72 companions in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. In Kashmir, the two major processions of 8th and 10th Muharram were banned in 1989 by the then Governor Jagmohan after an armed insurgency broke out against the Indian rule. Since then, only small mourning rallies and processions are allowed in a few areas with sizeable Shia population. Authorities fear the processions, if allowed, could turn anti-India and pro-freedom.
Since early Sunday, CRPF and police were deployed in huge numbers in areas falling police stations of Kothi Bagh, Maisuma, Kralkhud, Shaheed Gunj, Batamaloo, Shergarhi, Karan Nagar, Ram Munshi Bagh, and Parimpora. Curfew-like restrictions were imposed in these areas to thwart the traditional 8th Muharram procession from Guru Bazaar to Dalgate, eyewitnesses said.
“To scuttle the procession, police had choked Lal Chowk, Abi Guzar, Jehangir Chowk, Shaheed Gunj, Nawab Bazaar, Karan Nagar and other areas of the city with spools of razor wire,” the eyewitnesses said. At sensitive places, armoured vehicles were used to prevent mourners from reaching Guru Bazaar.
Maisuma, which houses the headquarters of pro-independence JKLF, was also placed under siege. The curbs affected the smooth flow of traffic on the otherwise busy roads of this capital city.
However, defying curbs, scores of mourners assembled near the Fire Services Headquarters at Batamaloo here and tried to march towards Guru Bazaar to participate in the Muharram procession. Shouting slogans like “Labaik Ya Hussain,” and “Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (SAW)”, the mourners carrying flags and banners were intercepted by cops.
“The mourners offered stiff resistance and tried to break the cordon. However, the cops used batons and lobbed a few teargas canisters to disperse them,” Nasir Hussain Dar, an eyewitness said.
He said the mourners regrouped near Suthra Shahi and tried to move towards Guru Bazaar. However, the cops swung into action and dispersed them. A group of mourners were seen shouting pro-Islam and anti-police slogans from the high rise buildings in Karan Nagar.
In the neighbouring Kani Kadal, mourners fought pitched battles with the police after prevented from reaching Guru Bazaar. Police tossed tear smoke shells after batons proved ineffective to disperse the mourners, who resorted to stone pelting. The ding-dong battles continued for several hours.
“The ban imposed on Muharram processions is unjustified. The government leaves no stone unturned to ensure and facilitate month-long annual Amarnath Yatra, but when it comes to Muharram, they make absurd statements. We want this unwarranted ban lifted,” a visibly angry protester Irfan Hussain said.
Later in the day, a Muharram procession was taken out from Dalgate in which hundreds of mourners participated. The procession concluded peacefully at to Haidari Hall, Dalgate.
Meanwhile, official sources said that two people were injured while three dozen mourners were detained from parts of the uptown when they tried to take out Muharram processions. The two people, who suffered minor injuries in the clashes, have been identified as Farooq Ahmad and Aseem Ullah.
However, a senior police official told Kashmir Reader that barring stray incidents of stone pelting, situation remained by and large peaceful.
“Some preventive arrests were made to maintain law and order. All of the detainees were released in the evening,” he added.