Allah gave us touching heart to express our passion for ones that he loves. For past 1400 years devout Muslims have been observing Ashura to remember martyrs of Karbala and the brutal massacre of the noble family of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) hungry and thirsty under the scorching heat in the desert of Karbala.
In Kashmir too Muslims, irrespective of their sectarian affiliations, have been commemorating the days during the month of Muharram eversince Islam arrived here.
Commemoration of these days revive the memories of those noble souls and rejuvenate the spirit of Muslims as the message of Karbala remains as relevant today as it was 1400 years back.
According to famous Muslim revolutionary, Imam Ruhullah Khomeini: Every Day is Ashura and Every Place Karbala.
This may explain why successive rulers have been trying to curb the events held in memory of the martyrs of Karbala every year. In modern times, while at some places ban is imposed on these functions at many places hidden forces through their proxies explode bombs and carry out massacres of those who come out to refresh memory of the beloved grandson of Prophet of Islam (Pbuh).
In Kashmir too there was ban on remembering the children of Muhammad (pbuh) till 19th century as tyrannical rulers saw these as threat because remembering Hussain means imbibing the spirit of valour and martyrdom, standing against the tyrant, upholding the truth and seeking justice.
Finally on one day in 1931 a noble soul of Kashmir, Agha Syed Hussain Jalali stood up and dared the autocratic ruler of the time to stop the procession marking Ashura.
Till then Muslims would mark the days of Muharram discreetly during night hours only.
The Jamiat-e-Hamdania, a party comprising the followers of Amir-e-Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, joined their Shia brethren in ensuring that the name of Imam Hussain resounds during day time in a Muslim majority region.
Agha Syed Hussain Jalali organized Ashura procession from Namchibal (Khanqah-e-Maula) to Zadibal. “Kahkashees”, led the Ashura procession with copies of holy Quran on their heads as Imam Hussain had laid his life to keep the Quarnic teachings alive as according to Iqbal, Islam Zinda Hota Hai- Har Karbala Key Baad.
The procession also had shabih of Zuljinah (the legendary horse of Imam Hussain) with it to revive the scenes of Ashura.
It was during this procession, famous Nauha Khwan, Mirza Mehdi Beigh from Sonwar read “Ye chu zuljanaye Syed-e-Shohda, / Ye Qatal Gah Manz Draw Gatse Kheem Gah”.
This Nauha is still recited in the Zuljanah processions. Mourners were seen drowned in emotions, rubbing soil on their heads while repeating this elegy of Mehdi Beigh
“Halaqaye Shabeer tsate Shumrey layeen dar karbala;
Dape Shumras Shah Hussain sabr kar te rosiyah;
Darwaaz ratith cham wuchaan Zainab-e-Kubra;
Su kheem-e-nyeare barmala; lare phyeare Murtaza”.
A surcharged atmosphere would engulf the procession when elderly would read the this Nauha.
Soon Agha Sahib of Budgam began leading Ashura procession from Zadibal to Imam Bargah Hassanabad.
Some extremists however continued to play into enemy hands by indulging in attacks on the Hussaini processions, thus wittingly or unwittingly strengthening the enemy hands.
After 1931, a political movement was launched in which noted leaders participated in order to bridge the Shia-Sunni gulf created over a period of time by successive alien rulers as a matter of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’.
The Shia community is indebted to late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah also, as he played an active and vital role in improving the relations between the two major Muslim sects of Kashmir. In late seventies he persuaded the two Shia factions to carry out only one Ashura procession on 10th of Muharram each year. Later political/religious parties of Shia Muslims decided to take out central Ashura procession alternatively. Jammu And Kashmir Shia Association, headed by Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari carried out the Ashura procession on one year and Anjuman-e-Sharie Shiayan of Agha Sahab of Budgam on the other.
As per the agreement, signed by leading Shia parties under Sheikh sahibs supervision, Ashura procession was allotted to Shia Association and Anjuman-e-Sharie on alternate years while the processions of 7th, 8th and 9th Muharram were allotted to Ittehadul Muslimeen led by Molvi Abbas Ansari.
He continues to lead these processions till date. However the biggest procession on 8th of Muharram was banned by government soon after militancy broke out citing threat to peace. This despite the fact that thousands of Sunni Muslims would join this procession as mark of their respect for the family of Prophet (pbuh) and partly because Molvi Abbas has been champion of Shia-Sunni unity in Kashmir.
While others have reconciled to the ban on Ashura procession, Molvi Abbas Ansari continues to defy this ban. He calls on Muslims every year to defy the ban and join the procession of 8th Moharram.
In response Shia mourners every year reach Lal Chowk leading to confrontation with government forces. Hundreds are beaten and arrested. 8th of Muharram was a glorious procession as people would march from Srinagar’s Guru Bazar and then pass through Lal Chowk and reach Dalgate in the evening.
This procession now turns in to a protest demonstration every year.
Successive governments have, now in effect confined Muharram processions to Shia inhabited areas thus disallowing mourners to take out the message of Muharram outside the confines of select areas.
This has virtually killed the purpose of taking out the processions and buried the spirit of our great ancestors who took pains and fought for their right to take out these processions through the city.
Government is thus guilty of infringing the fundamental right to freedom of religious practice of people so boldly stated in Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.