Srinagar: Police on Tuesday fired tear gas shells and mounted a lathi charge to disperse the Muharram procession in city centre Lal Chowk and Dalgate on the eighth day of the holy month of Muharram. At Lal Chowk, police also beat up journalists who were covering the procession. The camera of a photojournalist, Sajad Hussain, was damaged in the police lathi charge.
Police also detained scores of mourners while quelling the processions at many parts of Kashmir valley where Shias traditionally take out Muharram processions.
Mourners marching in procession were chanting religious and pro-freedom slogans on the streets of Srinagar when the police intervened. The processions were being taken out despite restrictions imposed in Srinagar city against gatherings. Police and paramilitary forces were deployed at every sensitive place where there was apprehension of street protests or processions taking place. The authorities had erected steel barricades and barbed wires at many places to block crowds.
Muharram is the holiest month for Shia Muslims during which they take out large processions, beating their chests and reciting elegies to mourn the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain (AS). Ashura, the 10th day of the month, is the most important day for the processions.
Tuesday’s procession was to mark the eighth day of Muharram. Last year as well, Muharram processions in Kashmir had turned violent after police and government forces fired tear smoke and mounted lathi charge, injuring dozens.
The official ban on Muharram procession remains in place since armed insurgency broke out in Kashmir in 1989. This ban has often been described by Kashmiri Shia Muslims as a curb on their religious freedom on the pretext of maintaining law and order.
“We were taking out a procession peacefully, but police stopped us, detained us, and lathicharged us,” said one mourner, Amir Hussain, at Lal Chowk. He said that when the police and mourners confronted each other, the latter started to ask for a copy of the ban order on Muharram processions. Police in response said that the processions can be taken out at designated locations, but not from the main markets. In response, the mourners cited an order of the government in which it was said that there was no ban on the procession.
At Dalgate, police had to resort to tear gas shelling to disperse the mourners, causing minor injuries to some of them.
In violation of the government prohibitory orders against Muharram procession on Gurubazar-Dalgate route in Srinagar, some people tried to take out processions at various locations in Dalgate-Civil Lines area.
It said that while Police exercised maximum restraint and tried to disperse them peacefully.
“However, in a bid to take out such a procession a group assembled near Polo View who too were stopped and advised by on duty police party to disperse peacefully in view of the government ban. Instead some of the miscreants started manhandling the police personnel deployed on duties and tried to mount on the BP Rakshak vehicle of SDPO Kothibagh,” it said.
“Despite, such provocation and hooliganism the Officer and his party exercised maximum restraint, while suddenly a group of miscreants armed with sharp edged weapons started vandalizing the police vehicle and also attacked SDPO Kothibagh. In this incident, the police officer along with his escort personnel received multiple injuries and were shifted to hospital for treatment of their injuries,” it added.
In this connection, a case under relevant sections of law has been registered and investigation is in progress.
The people involved are being identified and strict action as warranted under law will be taken against them, police said.