Jammu Govt bans Muharram Procession

The administration perceives the processions as a ground for people assembling not only for religious purposes, but also for politics.

Srinagar,20 September: The Jammu and Kashmir government has once again imposed restrictions in several parts of the Kashmir Valley, particularly the capital city Srinagar, ahead of the eighth Muharram to prevent the Shia mourners’ Muharram processions. The processions stand “banned” in Kashmir since 1990 when armed insurgency began.

The eighth Muharram of 1989 was a massive procession comprising approximately one lakh people who marched from Shaheed Gunj via Budshah Chowk through MA Road to Dalgate. Vilayat Joo, a resident of Old Srinagar, who participated in the procession, recalled how the march was infiltrated by militants. “The procession comprised mostly of Sunnis. At Budshah Chowk, the procession was joined by militant commanders including Hameed Shiekh, one of the members of famous HAJY group.”

The procession marched through MA Road amid “pro-freedom” slogans and culminated at Dalgate.Since then, the government in J&K never allowed the Muharram procession; it was banned the very next year by the then governor, Jagmohan.
Each year, the J&K police imposes curfew-like restrictions, putting up iron barricades and rolls of concertina wires. Armed police personnel do not even allow pedestrian movement, as tougher restrictions are enforced.However, despite the clampdown, mourners defy police restrictions and take out processions. And each time they do, police and paramilitary personnel intercept the mourners, fire tear gas canisters at them, baton-charge them and eventually arrest them.
This year too, the J&K police arrested an unspecified number of Shia mourners taking part in a procession. Several of the mourners were also injured in police action.

                     Police attacks protesters

(Source: Muhammad Raafi)

“Practicing religion is a fundamental right. The state is not only violating the right to religious practice but is also violating the fundamental right of gathering and movement,” said Raashid Maqbool, a senior journalist belonging to the Shia community.
He added that the state has not been able to give any plausible reasons for the ban so far. “The state must have some apprehensions, but they have not been able to clear the reasons.”