Continuing with its policy to disallow Muharram processions ---where Shia sect mourn the loss of life incurred centuries ago in an Islamic battle --- on traditional routes in Srinagar, the authorities on Wednesday imposed curfew and barricaded five police stations. Security in general was heightened across the valley and in Shia pockets in particular.
Two mourning devotees sustained injuries when a group of people, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani's faction of the Hurriyat Conference leaders, defied curfew in uptown Srinagar's Jehangeer Chowk to carry out a religious procession.
The police and CRPF manning the street swiftly resorted to baton charge and lobbed tear-smoke shells to disperse the mob. Two mourners were hit by shells in the security forces' action.
The J-K administration has banned Muharram procession in uptown Srinagar since 1990s. Most such processions turned into pro-freedom protests in early 1990s forcing the state government to ban such congregations.
The ban, however, was challenged by Shia cleric and separatist organisation Ithaad-ul-Muslimeen chief Maulana Abbas Ansari in Srinagar's High Court. There is a complete ban on the mid-city processions of the 8th and Ashura (10th Muharram) in Srinagar.
To enforce the ban, five police stations --- Maisuma, Kralkhud, Kothibagh, Shaheed Gunj and Ram Munshi Bagh --- in Srinagar were brought under curfew to thwart any attempt to carry out procession. A failed attempt, however, was made near Abi Guzar area in curfew bound Lal Chowk too.
The authorities had deployed additional troops across the city to man streets in Shia-majority localities and areas. Processions were, however, allowed in Shia-majority Zadibal constituency.
Both the factions of Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Geelani, have condemned the state government's "interference with religious duties of Muslims in Kashmir".
"The state government spends crores of rupees on smooth functioning of the Amarnath yatra and the Kheer Bhawani festival. Extensive security is put in place to allow the religious congregations. But when it comes to Muharram processions and Friday prayers, the state government imposes curfew," lamented Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front faction's chief Javeed Mir.