Curfew-like restrictions were reimposed in several parts of Kashmir Valley on Tuesday to prevent people from holding marches on the occasion of Muharram, PTI reported. Shia Muslims organise the processions to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Husayn in the Battle of Karbala. It is one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar.
Though there were reports of gradual relaxation of the constraints on public movement, the restrictions were put in place on Sunday too. Like on Sunday, Srinagar’s Lal Chowk commercial hub and nearby areas were sealed off with concertina wires, and a number of security personnel were placed there.
According to reports, the restrictions were put in place as authorities were apprehensive that large congregations might lead to violence. Traditionally, people from the Shia community organise a march from Lal Chowk to Dalgate. It was banned in 1989 at the peak of militancy after the procession turned into a platform for anti-India protests.
A News18 report said black flags and banners with prayers adorned the side of roads and streetlights in Zadibal in downtown Srinagar. The neighbourhood is a Shia-majority area. Though reports had said that small processions might be allowed in such areas, the roads in the area were deserted except security personnel. “We are not being allowed to even fetch medicine and necessary commodities,” Ghulam Hussain, a 70-year old retired government officer, told the news channel. Hussain, who was born in Zadibal and grew up there, said the restrictions imposed were exceptional.
Local people alleged that the police had fired teargas shells and pellet guns to disperse people who wanted to march. “We were taking the procession within the alleys of the locality,” said Tanveer Pathan, an elected corporator of the Srinagar Municipal Committee. “The police even escorted the people for some distance but then teargas shells and pellets were fired.”
Pathan claimed that the police were looking for him. “They want to arrest me,” he told News18. “I had to go in hiding for many days.”
Local people alleged that police had beaten some youngsters distributing water at stalls set up for the public. “If thousands of pilgrims can visit Amarnath cave and government can provide security to them, why can’t we take out the procession?” asked a resident of Zadibal.
Reports of restrictions in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley came a day after News18 reported that posters from militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad had started appearing outside local mosques in an alleged attempt to deter local people from resuming normal activities. A few masked men allegedly appeared in some mosques in Srinagar and Sopore, warning people not to go back to their daily routine. Eight suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants accused of threatening and intimidating local people were arrested from South Kashmir’s Sopore town on Monday.
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