Police Uses Force To Stop Muharram Procession in Srinagar

Mourners raising pro-Islam slogans while leading 8th Muharram procession through Srinagar’s Maulana Azad Road on Tuesday. KO Photo, Abid Bhat

Scores Injured, 5 Hit By Pellets, Dozens Detained

By Mohammad Raafi/ Zaid Bin Shabir 

Srinagar: Scores of mourners were injured, at least half a dozen by pellets, after government forces burst teargas canisters and fired shotgun pellets to prevent thousands of people defying ban order to take out traditional 8th Muharram procession in this capital city.

Over two dozen mourners were detained and many ‘thrashed’ by the riot police.

Early in the morning, mourners in small batches made attempts to reach Guru Bazar locality of Shaheed Gunj to take out the traditional 8th Muharram procession that remains banned since early nineties. There was heavy deployment of armed police and all entry points were sealed with concertina wires and other barricades.
Chanting “Labaik Ya Hussain”, the mourners were intercepted by police and paramilitary personnel at a number of places including Batmalu, Jehangir Chowk and Abi Guzar.

The CRPF and police party led by SHO Shaheed Gunj Sabzar Ahmad used batons to stop mourners from regrouping. Some of the mourners were severely thrashed. Nearly a dozen mourners were also detained. The police also manhandled a few journalists covering the procession near Jehangir Chowk.

In the afternoon, the residents of Guru Bazar tried to take out the procession towards Dalgate. However, the government forces deployed in advance thwarted their attempt

“The cops came charging on us. They used batons and pushed us back to the locality,” Humayun Khan, an eyewitness said.

By afternoon mourners assembled in groups all along the Gurubazar-Dalgate stretch, the traditional route of 8th Muharram procession banned by successive civilian and governor administrations since 1989.

It soon took the shape of a procession as several thousand mourners, mostly youth, assembled at Dalgate crossing and again attempted to march towards Lal Chowk while another group marched from the opposite side on MA Road.

Here again, the cops fired tear smoke shells and resorted to baton charge to disperse them.

“The mourners regrouped and continued their march forcing police to retreat from many points. Later, police fired warning shots after failing to break-up the procession with batons, teargas canisters and pellets,” Shabir Hussain, an eyewitness said.

While the forces were trying to disperse mourners at Dalgate, another group appeared near the corporate headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited. Carrying Islamic flags and reciting Nauha’s, the mourners were intercepted by the CRPF and police from proceeding ahead.

According to reports dozens of people were injured in police action. Reports of over two dozen mourners being detained were also received.

Medical Superintendent SMHS, Dr Kanwaljeet Singh told Kashmir Observer that five youth with pellet injuries were brought to the hospital for treatment.

“Of them, two have pellet injuries in eyes and three others in other body parts. All of them are stable and currently under observation,” he said.

Pertinently, the two major processions of 8th and 10th Muharram in Srinagar were banned in 1989 by the then Governor Jagmohan fearing the processions may turn into pro-freedom demonstrations. Ever since only small mourning rallies and processions are allowed in the interiors of few Shia dominated localities.

The 8th Muharram procession used to be led by Maulana Abbas Ansari whose Ittehadul Muslimeen continues to challenge the ban order by defying restrictions every year.

POLICE VERSION

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said the police respects religious sentiments of the public, but at the same time, it is their joint responsibility to defeat the “ill designs of vested interests” who try to disturb the peaceful atmosphere.

“We #respect the religious #sentiments and practices of all but at the same time it is also our joint #responsibility to defeat the ill designs of vested interests who try to disturb #peaceful atmosphere,” the Kashmir Zone Police quoted the IGP as having said in its official Twitter handle.

In a statement issued in the evening, a police spokesperson said that in violation of the government’s prohibitory orders against Muharram procession on Guru Bazar-Dalgate route, some people tried to take out processions at various locations in Dalgate-Civil Lines area, while police exercised maximum restraint and tried to disperse them peacefully.

“However, in a bid to take out such a procession a group assembled near Polo View who too were stopped and advised by the on duty police party to disperse peacefully in view of the Govt ban. Instead some of the miscreants started manhandling the police personnel deployed on duties and tried to mount on the BP Rakshak vehicle of SDPO Kothibagh,” the police spokesperson said.

Despite such provocation and hooliganism, he said, the officer and his party exercised maximum restraint, while suddenly a group of miscreants armed with sharp edged weapons started vandalizing the police vehicle and also attacked SDPO Kothibagh.

“In this incident, the police officer along with his escort personnel received multiple injuries and were shifted to hospital for treatment of their injuries,” he said.

“In this connection, a case under relevant sections of law has been registered and investigation is in progress. The miscreants involved are being identified and strict action as warranted under law will be taken against them,” he added.

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