Ban on the traditional Muharram processions especially 8th Muharram and 10th (Ashura) in Kashmir by the establishment since the rise of insurgency in the state in 1990s exposes their inability to rise to the occasion and guarantee fundamental rights of a community to perform their religious obligations.
It also exposes successive governments lack of strategy and political will to lift the this unwarranted ban on a purely religious commemoration of a particular community. Two processions in the state capital along the traditional routes, one from Guru Bazar to Dalgate on 8th Muharram and another from Abi Guzar to Zadibal on Ashura stand banned.
Procession of the 8th Muharram used to be the largest of all in which mourners would be led by senior leaders and people from all sects would be part of it. This procession had an aura of its own and in true sense was carrying forward the message of Karbala out from the closet.
Ban on the Muharram processions in Kashmir is discriminatory to say the least. If they are banned on the grounds of security concerns then we have a bigger such concern for another religious march of much bigger scale and that is Amarnath Yatra. If government can ensure adequate security arrangements for Amarnath Yatra which is attended by lakhs of people from outside Kashmir why there is discrimination with Shia Muslims who are inhabitants of the state?
It is the responsibility of state apparatus to facilitate any such procession as it is our fundamental right to perform our religious rituals. On the one side the authorities here remain busy all year round to ensure smooth run for two month long Yatra but at the same time use all power at their disposal to clamp down on mourners on 8th and 10th Muharram in Srinagar.
The aspirations of the people are trampled with strict restrictions and firing and teargas shells. Police and paramilitary forces are deployed, pedestrian as well as vehicular movement barred and razor wires erected to prevent Shia Muslims from remembering their religious icons.
We are peace loving community and not war mongers and this ban and double standards have only exposed the secular credentials of the establishment.
Is it you are afraid of the message, Karbala episode, has for the world that you stifle it by clamping ban on such peaceful processions?
Well if so then you are mistaken. The tyrants of the time thought same way when they tried to stifle the voice of Imam Hussain by brutally lynching him with his small band of followers in the plains of Karbala some 1400 years back. Lo and behold, 1400 years on you have to use muscle power to stop masses from coming out to carry forward that message.
Let better sense prevail and let Muslims of the state be allowed to take out their religious processions which have been symbols of unity and brotherhood for centuries.
Syed Karar Hashmi
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