Amid tight security and curfew-like restrictions in large parts of Srinagar city, hundreds of Shia Muslims on Friday marched on the streets, raised slogans, beat chests and resorted to self-flagellation to mark the tenth day of Muharram.
Security was tightened in Shia-dominated areas in central and north Kashmir and Srinagar to maintain peace and ensure safe processions. As part of the security arrangements, large parts of the city were closed for traffic.
Amid tight security, processions were taken out at Zadibal, Pattan and Budgam areas. Children, women and the elderly, carrying flags, participated in the processions. Most processions were peaceful. The government, however, once again disallowed any major processions from uptown Srinagar, in line with the banthat has been imposed since 1989.
The authorities enforced curfew-like restrictions around Jamia Masjid. The masjid priest, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also chairman of Moderate Hurriyat Conference, was disallowed from performing Friday prayers. "The government resorted to dictatorial tactics by imposing an undeclared curfew in many areas of Kashmir to stop mourners from taking out Ashura processions," the spokesperson of Moderate Hurriyat Conference said in a press release issued on Friday.
The spokesperson alleged that a "siege" around the historic Jamia Masjid prevented people from attending Friday prayers.
"A large police contingent prevented the mirwaiz from leading Friday prayers and his scheduled address at Alam Sahab Shrine Narwra. This is direct interference in his religious affairs," the spokesperson alleged.
There were reports of minor clashes between protesters in Nowhatta and Baramulla town after Friday prayers. Several separatist leaders participated in Ashura processions and made speeches. The Shia-Suni Coordination Committee, formulated by moderate Hurriyat leaders, took out a number of Ashura processions at different places of Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik also addressed Shia congregations and paid tributes to the martyrs. "Imam Hussain's sacrifice is a role-model for all. He stood for justice and did not bow before the oppressors," he said.
Moderate Hurriyat leader Agha Mujtaba Hassan took out an Ashura procession at Lal Chowk, but was stopped by the police. The mourners alleged that the police fired tear smoke shells to disperse believers. Opposition party People's Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the police action. "The government has not spared even a supremely religious and emotional occasion like this. Such acts have become a hallmark of the present government. The fact that it used its favorite methods of teargas and lathicharge to prevent a religious procession is an index of its bankruptcy," said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
Shia Muslim mourners traditionally take out Muharram processions coinciding on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet of Islam. Imam Hussain was martyred this day 1,435 years ago along with his family members in Karbala town of Iraq.