For the 24th year, the Jammu and Kashmir government continued with its policy to ban Shia mourners' procession in uptown Srinagar. The unannounced curfew-like restrictions enraged a large section of the city population, stranded on roads for hours together, while the mourners clashed with the police.
Parts of the Srinagar city's uptown and old city, coming under nine police stations, were barricaded with concertina wires and heavy deployment of personnel and heavy vehicles since the dawn. The security forces enforced strict implementation of curfew-like restrictions and disallowed movement of people and vehicles.
Employees providing essential services like hospitals, water supply and power development were not allowed to move despite showing their identity cards. "I told a police deployment at Khanyar that I was a doctor. They rebuked me and asked me to return," alleged a senior doctor.
Officer-goers also found it difficult to reach their respective offices. Hundreds of vehicles were seen stuck for hours on roads heading to Lal Chowk, the commercial hub that houses most offices.
"It is maddening. Fifteen minutes journey was converted into two-hour drive. We were surprised to see restrictions. No prior announcement was made by the authorities," said Riyaz Ahmad, a bank official.
The authorities, however, justify the imposition of, what they call, Section 144, banning assembly of more than four people. "There was an apprehension of law and order problem as some groups were planning to take out Muharram processions," said Srinagar district magistrate Farooq Ahmed Shah.
Later, the police it had to impose curfew in six police stations. Shia mourners clashed with police in several curfew-bound areas in uptown. Teargas shells and batons were used to foil attempts by Shia mourners to carry out processions. Several were detained too.
Shia mourners take out processions across the globe for three days in the month of Muharram, starting 8th to remember the martyrs who laid down lives 1,400 years ago.
Traditionally, Shias would carry out a huge procession from Lal Chowk to Dalgate. The practice was banned in 1989 as militancy broke out. These religious processions would convert into anti-India protests.
The government move to continue with the practice, despite improvement in situation in Kashmir, has enraged the Valley's minority community.
"In the world's largest democracy, the peaceful mourners were once again banned to observe Azadari. It's unfortunate that India is behaving like Pakistani state against Shia Muslims," wrote Sajjad Hussain, a writer, on a social networking site.