Cleric Breaks Cordon, Holds 'Aag Ka Matam'

SRINAGAR: Groups of youth took to streets in several Shia dominated areas in the city and north Kashmir and disrupted traffic and forced a shut down after news spread that the son of late Moulvi Iftikhar Ansari  was roughed up by the police in Chadoora.

According to eyewitnesses PDP candidate for the Pattan constituency, Moulvi Imran Ansari led a  march of his followers to Khanda village in Chadoora Tehsil Saturday morning in defiance of a curfew imposed there by the administration as a precautionary measure.

The curfew had been imposed in Khanda and adjoining areas following apprehension of breach of peace after junior Ansari, who was anointed heir to his late father recently, decided to lead a march to the area to hold traditional 'Aag Ka Matam' (walking over burning embers) which the locality had abandoned since last year following an edict by top Shia Marja including Ayatollah Syed Ali Sistani of Iraq and Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei of Iran.

Both the authorities have urged Shia Muslims to shun rituals which cause misunderstanding in the Ummah and declared practices which lead to body harm as Haram.

Khanda village was a popular centre for traditional Aag Ka Matam on the evening of 7th Muharram annually but since last year those adhering to the edicts of grand Ayatollah’s prevailed upon the residents and stopped the practice.

However followers of Moulvi Iftikhar have been adamant in continuing the practice as they have been in the case of self flagellation (Zajeer Ka Matam).

On Saturday Molvi Imran Raza arrived there in the morning itself accompanied by a large number of his  followers.

When he began marching towards the curfew bound village police swung into action and resorted to cane charge.

However Moulvi Imran continued his march resulting in a  scuffle with the police.

Abid Ansari, his uncle and general Secretary of his party Shia Association alleged that the police thrashed Moulvi Imran mercilessly.

Imran received minor injury in the head.

Later Imran managed to enter Khanda and organized Aag Ka Matam which continued till 5 in the evening. During the day opponents of the practice hurled stones at his procession resulting in sporadic clashes.

Soon after the news spread groups of youth appeared in the streets in Zadibal quarter of the city and forced a shutdown. Similar scenes were witnessed in Chenabal area along Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Stone pelting was also reported along Mujgund-Bandipora stretch of the highway at Dangerpora and Shadipora, police said.

The action caused massive traffic snarls during the day.

Abid Ansari meanwhile said that he will hold a press conference on Sunday and announce the future course of action.

He denied that the present issue was sectarian in nature saying no Shia Sunni issue is involved and their protest is against the district administration.

Police meanwhile said the restrictions were imposed in the village following tension as the Shia community of the area was divided over holding of a traditional ritual. However, one of the groups supporting the ritual invited Ansari resulting in clashes between the rival groups.

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