India: Govt clamps curfew to stop main Ashura procession in Kashmir

Report
from Islamic Republic News Agency
Published on 17 Dec 2010 View Original
Srinagar, India, Dec 17, IRNA

Authorities in Kashmir have announced imposition of curfew in the capital city on the day of Ashura, Friday, to scuttle attempts by Muslims to take out a traditional procession to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussain and his followers in the battlefield of Karbala.

The decision to impose curfew in the areas falling under seven out of ten police stations of the city was taken by the district administration, officials said.

The curfew will be strictly enforced on Friday in the areas falling under the jurisdiction of Police stations Kothi Bagh, Maisuma, Kralkhud, Khanyar, Maharaj Gunj, Nowhatta and Safa Kadal covering major parts of the city, a police officer said.

He said authorities will deal strictly with any one trying to violate the ban on mourning procession.

Earlier on Wednesday police used force to disperse mourners who had taken out processions in defiance of restrictions in several areas.

Major mourning processions are banned in Kashmir since 1990 as authorities fear these may turn into pro-freedom demonstrations.

Officials do not admit it publicly but say they fear militant attacks on the processions.

However Shia leaders, like Maulana Abbas Ansari and Agha Syed Hassan Al Mosavi have been accusing successive governments of curbing the freedom of religion of the Shia minority on flimsy pretexts. They even charge government of discrimination.

'All these turbulent years both government of India and the state government ensured smooth conduct of the annual Hindu pilgrimage in Kashmir but at the same time has been crushing the peaceful mourners who come out to mourn their beloved Imam, said Maulana Masroor Ansari, moments before he was arrested for leading a procession in defiance of curbs on Wednesday.

Authorities allow Muharram processions only in select Shia pockets.

Meanwhile Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Muhammad Yasin Malik has urged all pro-freedom parties to overlook the curbs imposed by the authorities and ensure the participation in the historic Ashura procession on Friday.

"Ban on Ashura procession since past 20 years is unacceptable to all of us.

We need to come forward and ensure that Ashura procession is taken out this year," Malik said while addressing a gathering of mourners here.

This year since Ashura falls on Friday, Kashmiris chief priest Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has decided to defy the restrictions if he was not allowed to join Friday prayers at Srinagar's Grand Mosque.

Mirwaiz, who heads the moderate Hurriyat Conference, has been barred from giving Friday sermon at the historic mosque for over one month.