JK Govt Lifts Ban on Muharram Processions, Ruhullah Questions Motive

Mourners defying ban on 8th Muharram procession facing tear gas at MA Road- KO file photo

Srinagar:- Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to allow major Muharram processions in Kashmir capital this year after a gap of more than thirty years.

The order was issued after a meeting held under the chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Pandurang K Pole here on Saturday.

“It was decided that Muharram-ul-Haram 1443 (Hijri), shall be celebrated (sic) as per the past practice; however, in view of the COVID, the guidelines shall be adhered in letter and spirit”, the order, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer, reads.

“The administration said that all the necessary arrangements shall be put in place for the convenience of the people and the decision of the commemoration of Muharram shall be left up to the Shia organisations for which all the Deputy Commissioners and Senior Superintendents of Police shall be in touch with them”, it further said.

The dates on which the procession have been allowed, include two major processions of 8th and 10th of Muharram. Both these processions were banned in early nineties with the onset of militanty in Kashmir.

Ever since Shia parties, sympathetic to separatist cause, flouted the ban and took out processions in defiance only to be met with police force and other curbs.

Ittehadul Muslimeen which led the defiance and even moved court to challenge the ban, has not reacted yet.

Succesive govt’s in J&K dealt strictly with those defying the ban on Muharram processions- KO file photo

However, pro-establishment Shia Association which supported the ban on major processions all these years arguing that situation was not conducive has welcomed the order.

Imran Raza Ansari who now heads Shia Association while welcoming the Saturday’s order announced that his party would lead the procession of Ashura as per past practice (Pre-militancy period). Imran Ansari is part of Peoples Conference led by Sajad Gani Lone.

“As a mark of respect for Shaheede Karbala Moula Imam Hussain (AS) I request Hujat ul Islam Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosavi Sb to Join us at Abiguzar where the Jaloos of Ashoora will commence its journey after a gap of more than 30 years”, Imran tweeted.

There was however no response to his invitation by Aga Hassan, who is close to Hurriyat Conference.

However Aga’s bête noire and rebel National Conference leader Aga Ruhullah Mehdi questioned the government order.

“Given the fact that all other major religious gatherings (with no exception to any particular religion) continue to be banned this sudden isolated decision about the 10th Muharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk, after a gap of 30 years, raises more questions than it answers”.

“Only few days ago the IGP Kmr told people to celebrate Eid “at their homes” invoking Covid protocols. The Friday prayers at Jama Masjid have not been allowed for the last more than 100 Fridays & continue to be banned, again invoking Covid 19 protocols. The list goes on,” former minister and three time legislator from Budgam wrote.

Ruhollah noted, “If the Friday prayers and other major religious functions (across all religions) continue to be banned and this particular procession suddenly encouraged in isolation in that case, I see nefarious designs behind it.”

In another tweet he said, “To answer those questions and to make it clear that there are no nefarious designs behind this decision,this 10th Muharram procession should be preceded by Friday prayers at Jama Masjid before this 10th Muharram.”

He further asked the admin to come clean on the decision, “Therefore the responsibility lies with the administration to  come clean. Now that the time for Eid prayer this year has passed. Lift the ban on Friday prayers at Jama Masjid too, like you suddenly took this decision and prove that there are no nefarious designs.”

The government  order came at a time when all the religious and other gatherings were barred owing to the raging pandemic.

Last month, Amarnath Yatra was also cancelled for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It bears mention that Shia Muslims commemorate the supreme sacrifice of the household of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) led by his beloved grandson Imam Hussain along with his family and small band of followers in 680 AD in the deserts of Karbala. Annual processions are an important part of the Muharram commemorations the world over.

However successive governments in Kashmir officially banned them after the eruption of insurgency in 1989. Each administration instead granted permissions to the community to carry out smaller processions restricted to neighbourhoods with dominant Shia populations.

The government order this year has however allowed all traditional processions only restricting Ashura procession to less than one kilometer stretch from Abi Guzar to Lal Chowk instead of its original route from Abi Guzar to Zadibal in the old Srinagar.

The dates on which the procession will be held in various districts, according to Govt order are:

6th Muharram: Gulshan Bagh to Zadibal
7th Muharram: Kathi Darwaza to Hassanabad
8th Muharram: Gurubazar to Dalgate
9th Muharram: Mandibal to Zadibal
10th Muharram: Abi Guzar to Lal Chowk
11th Muharram: Rainawari to Hassanabad and Zadibal interiors
25th Muharram: Mirgund to Budgam.

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