Curfew like restrictions in Srinagar to stop Muharram procession6 December 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: The State Government today imposed curfew like restriction in parts of Srinagar to prevent Shi'ite Muslims from taking out Muharram processions and maintain law and order. Despite restrictions, Srinagar city witnessed ding dong battles between stone throwing protesters and police and para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in which around three dozen persons including 6 police men were injured. Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Mehraj Ahmad escaped unhurt when the vehicle he was traveling in was attacked by stone throwing protesters in Nowhetta area of Srinagar. His vehicle received minor damages in the incident. The Deputy Commissioner was returning from Zadibal where he had gone to review the Muharram arrangements. The ding dong battles between stone throwing protestors and Police at Nowhatta started in the morning and continued for several hours. Initially, police maintained some restrain but when the stone pelting intensified, they fired tearsmoke and used pepper guns to disperse the protesters. But stone pelting protesters were disappearing in lanes and again re-grouping to pelt stones on police. Besides Nowhatta, clashes between police and stone throwing protesters were reported from Zadibal, Gojwara, Rajouri Kadal, Saraf Kadal, Hawal and Seki Dafar areas of downtown. Around three dozen protesters were injured in these clashes. At Seki Dafar, Shi'ite mourners tried to carry out Muharram procession but were intercepted by the Police and CRPF resulting in clashes in which around several Shi'ite mourners were injured. Police used tearsmoke to disperse the protesting Shi'ite mourners. Despite restrictions a group of Shi'ite Muslims led by Tehreek-i-Wahdat Islami (TWI) chairman, Nisar Hussain Rather, tried to take out Muharram procession and were marching towards Lal Chowk but they were arrested by the police near Dalgate. However, thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took part in main Muharam procession at Zadibal in the downtown under tight security to prevent any law and order problem or sectarian clashes. Senior police officers and officials of the civil administration were monitoring the situation at the Zadibal for smooth conduct of Muharram procession. The Shi'ite Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson, Imam Hussain and his family at Karbala, Iraq, 1331 years ago. And 10 Moharram marks the culmination of the 10 day mourning during which processions are taken out at several places across the Kashmir by Shi'ite Muslims. The Government today sealed the Abi Guzar, Lal Chowk area where some separatist Shi'ite Muslim groups had planned to take out Muharram procession. Concertina wires and huge number of police and CRPF personnel were deployed in the area to prevent Shi'ite groups form carrying out Moharram procession. It may be mentioned here that officially only Zadibal Moharram procession is being allowed by the Government in Srinagar city for the security reasons since 1990 when militancy broke out in the State. Police and CRPF personnel were also deployed along the banks of river Jhelum to prevent people from reaching Lal Chowk using boats. Police had blocked the footbridge near Lal Mandi connecting it with Sheikh Bagh, Lal Chowk to prevent any one from reaching to Abi-Guzar to take part in the procession. The road near TRC, Radio Kashmir, Jehangir Chowk, Amira Kadal was blocked by Police with the concertina wire to prevent anyone from reaching to Abiguzar. Even the journalists were not allowed to proceed to Partap Park, Press Colony by the police to attend their offices. However, Station House Officer (SHO) Kothibagh Shafiq Ahmad told Excelsior that there was no restriction on the movement of journalists. Police said restrictions were imposed in areas falling under two police stations of Maisuma and Kothibagh in order to prevent some anti-social elements from creating trouble in the city. Shops, vehicular traffic, businesses and pedestrian movement remained suspended in city centre Lal Chowk, adjacent Maisuma locality and Residency Road areas. Shops and other business establishments were also closed in old city areas with very little traffic on the roads. People had to face lot of hardships due to undeclared curfew like restrictions imposed by the administration. It may be mentioned here that the Government had announced yesterday that there will be no curfew in Srinagar and declared these as rumours. Meanwhile, the chairman of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq while addressing a gathering at Narvara, Srinagar paid rich tributes to martyrs of Karbala. He condemned the use of force by Government against the Shi'ite Muslim mourners. He also condemned their arrest and preventing them from taking out processions.