Syed Ali Safvi
Press TV, Kashmir
Scores of people were injured and many more were arrested after government forces attacked Muharram mourners in the Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city Srinagar.
Authorities had placed strict restrictions in the city and sealed the entry points with barbed wires to prevent Shia Muslims from participating in the traditional procession. On Saturday evening, authorities issued a statement upholding a ban on mourning processions in the city center.
Police and paramilitary forces were deployed in big numbers to maintain order. Mobile Internet services were suspended in parts of Srinagar.
However, some mourners defied restrictions and poured on to the streets at many places to mourn the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussain. The government forces swung into action and hit people with canes. A number of mourners were also detained.
Three decades on, the authorities continue to prevent Shia Muslims from holding traditional Muharram procession in the region’s city center, citing security reasons. People argue if the government can allow Hindu processions and political rallies in the heart of the city, why not Muharram procession?
Two major Muharram processions in the city center were banned by authorities following the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1989. The authorities fear the processions could be taken advantage of by separatist groups to stoke anti-India sentiments and hence create security threats. The religious bodies on the other hand term the ban as a brazen attack on their religious freedom.
The religious bodies have also criticized the authorities for failing to make necessary arrangements, like ensuring availability of essential supplies. They say all promises and claims made by the authorities have fallen flat.