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Sunday, April 05, 2020

No black banners, big processions: A muted Muharram in Kashmir

It is a muted Muharram in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar city, where even the customary processions were not allowed this year.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar | Published: September 9, 2019 3:18:02 am
Shias being stopped as severe restrictions were put in place in Srinagar to prevent Muharram processions Sunday. (AP)

There are no black banners at the city centre and no big processions — this year, for the first time in decades, there are little signs of Muharram in Srinagar.

It is a muted Muharram in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar city, where even the customary processions were not allowed this year.

“This is for the first time that there is no semblance of Muharram in the Valley,” said a resident of Alamgari Bazar, a neighbourhood in Srinagar. “In the past, the government wouldn’t allow a few big processions taken out from particular places of Srinagar. But this time, the ban is strict and even the smaller processions which were allowed in past are not being allowed.”

On Sunday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration reimposed the restrictions on civilian movement in several parts of the city, including the city centre Lal Chowk. The restrictions were imposed to prevent Muharram processions from being taken out from the Shaheed Gunj locality.

While the Shaheed Gunj procession was not allowed in the past as well, the police and paramilitary forces on Saturday swooped on the mourning procession taken out at Hassanabad in the city. In the past, the Hassanabad procession would be allowed. Several people taking part in the procession and at least five journalists were injured in the action by police and paramilitary forces.

The Shia clerics say that such is the clampdown in Valley that they have to be very careful while addressing Muharram gatherings.

“Muharram is all about Karbala and Karbala is all about fight against oppression,” said a cleric from Zadibal neighbourhood of Srinagar. “In our usual Muharram sermons, we talk about the oppression and eulogise the fight against it. Oppression inadvertently comes into our sermons. But this time, there is so much pressure that we are very careful while talking about it. Some of our clerics, who were vocal in their sermons, have already been picked up.”

The Jammu and Kashmir administration is planning to continue restrictions in parts of Srinagar for Monday and Tuesday, the 9th and 10th day of the month of Muharram when major processions are taken out in different parts of the Valley.

While a few black banners and flags have appeared in some other parts of the Valley, the pictures of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the yellow flags of his militant organisation are missing this time. People from the Shia community have also stayed away from hoisting Iranian flags at most places of the Valley this time.

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