With top Shia leader in detention, uncertainty over Muharram in Kashmir
Political detentions and a communication lockdown have cast a shadow on the upcoming Muharram in the Kashmir Valley. Several members of Kashmir’s one lakh strong Shia community told HT that they fear that the procession taken out on the 10th day of Muharram could be suspended or severely restricted on account of the ongoing communication clampdown.
The Valley has been under a lockdown since August 5, when the decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir was announced in Parliament by union home minister Amit Shah.
For the past few days groups of people from across the Valley have been trying unsuccessfully to meet Imran Raza Ansari, the Sadr (leader)of the Shia Association to get instructions on whether to organise the Muharram procession scheduled to be taken out on September 10.
Ansari, who has been detained at the Centaur Hotel along with more than 40 political leaders from different parties and groups, is the one who will make the final decision, said members of two groups that HT spoke to over the weekend.
“For us, it is important to meet him because in his absence, we cannot take a decision of any of these issues. All our religious services have been affected, even marriages cannot by solemnised without him,” said a member of a group who had come from Budgam district to Centaur Hotel.
The groups were getting restive, since they were not being allowed to meet Ansari, despite getting a clearance from the divisional commissioner’s office in Srinagar.
“He is our peer [religious leader], but the authorities have not been allowing us to meet him. We cannot undertake any activity of religious significance without his permission. And it appears that the Muharram procession will not be taken out in the Valley for the first time,” said a member of another group of people who had come to see Ansari.
People familiar with developments said there was a possibility of Ansari being shifted from Centaur Hotel to his home, where he could hold consultations with other Shia leaders regarding preparations for the procession and other rituals.
Srinagar’s deputy commissioner, Shahid Choudhary, ruled out the suspension of the procession and said a meeting was held on Saturday with leaders from several Shia groups to plan for the observance of various religious rituals.
He said Srinagar alone has as many as 14 imambargahs, where the processions culminate and all arrangements are being made to ensure there are no untoward incidents during the procession.
Also Watch|Shehla Rashid defends tweets alleging army excesses in Jammu & Kashmir
“We has had a meeting with all the concerned service providing agencies to ensure all arrangements are in place. The power department has been asked to ensure that all 56 feeders provide 24X7 power supply,” Choudhary said.
A resident of Hasanabad, who requested anonymity, said the single large Muharram procession that used to cover large parts of the Valley has over the years been limited to certain areas on account of security concerns.
“Restrictions are imposed on the routes for the processions since there is a possibility of miscreants targeting the crowds or even taking advantage of any large gathering to create trouble. Even a small incident can trigger violence and unrest, so we are on the guard and taking precautions, such as restricting the routes of the processions,” said a law enforcement official who did not want to be named.
The official said last year restrictions were imposed on the procession in areas in down town Srinagar.
“There will be strict security but the observance of Muharram will be facilitated,” the official said.