Muharram Mourners Defy Curfew; Scores Hurt In Police Action15 December 2010
Srinagar: Authorities Wednesday imposed strict curfew and security restrictions at several places in Srinagar to prevent Shia mourners from taking out Muharram processions on 8th day of Islamic month of Muharram. Curfew and tough restrictions under section 144 were imposed in Kothibagh, Maisuma, Kralkhud, Ram Munshi Bagh and Shaheedgunj police stations. Hundreds of police and paramilitary CRPF personnel armed with riot gears were deployed in the curfew-hit areas from early in the morning. The cops strictly enforced curfew and did not allow any kind of movement in the curfew-hit areas. However, the Shia mourners defied restrictions at Chinkral Mohalla in Habba Kadal area, Budshah Chowk near Lal Chowk and Tankipora near Divisional Commissioner's office and Dalgate and tried to take out Muharram processions. Chanting pro-Islamic slogans and carrying religious banners, they were intercepted by police and CRPF men, who resorted to baton charge and fired dozens of tear smoke shells to disperse the mourners. Scores of mourners were injured in the police action. However, after some time, the mourners reassembled in small groups. They were chased away by the police and paramilitary personnel. The imposition of curfew led to massive traffic jams in the city areas where no restrictions have been imposed. Schools, shops and private offices in the curfew-bound areas were closed. The attendance in the Government offices was also very thin due to the curbs imposed by the authorities. Authorities have been imposing curfew and restrictions to prevent Shia mourners from taking out Muharram processions since 1990s after outbreak of militancy in the Valley. Before the onset of militancy, the Shia community used to take out processions from Abi Guzar in Kothibagh and Guru Bazaar in Kralkhud police station areas which culminated at Dalgate in Ram Munshi Bagh area to mark the eighth day of the 10-day Muharram mourning period. The ban on Muharram processions was even challenged in the High Court by Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen led by prominent Shia cleric and Hurriyat (M) leader Maulana Abbas Ansari. However, authorities in defense of ban on Muharram processions maintained that the procession possesses security threat. The move by the government to prevent Shia mourners from taking out Muharram processions has come under severe criticism from separatist leadership, Shia religious leaders and mainstream political parties. Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani strongly condemned the use of “brute force” and curfew to foil Muharram processions in the city. He termed it as ‘State sponsored terrorism and open interference in religious affairs’. Senior Hurriyat (M) leader and Shia cleric Maulana Abbas Ansari termed the curfew as a measure to curb the religious freedom of the Kashmiri Muslims. “The government is impeding upon the religious rights of Kashmiri Muslims by using brute force,” he said. JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik, who also heads the Committee for sectarian Unity, while addressing a gathering of mourners at Alamgari Bazar said the ban and restrictions is not only worrisome for the Shia Community but an intolerable act for the whole Muslim population of the Valley. He urged the separatist leadership to ensure successful conduct of Muharram processions. Anjuman-e-Sharie Shian also strongly condemned the restrictions and use of force on the mourners. “The Muslims of Valley will struggle against this anti-religious move of the government,” a spokesman of the party said. Opposition PDP District President Srinagar Mohammed Ashraf Mir while condemning the unprecedented siege and curfew in Srinagar said that this is an unprecedented assault on people’s liberties. He condemned the continued “denial of freedom to offer religious rituals like Friday prayers and staging Muharram processions”. “This only compounded the crimes of the government which has blood of hundreds of innocents on its hands,” he alleged adding the mourners were provided very less facilities during these 8 days of Muharram. “At least government should have made the arrangements of power, water, medicine and other essentials in the Shia areas of the city but failed on all fronts in providing these facilities during the pious days of Muharram,” PDP leader said.