Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar has been placed under curfew — officially in the areas falling under three Police stations but unofficially the entire city — on Wednesday to thwart the annual Muharram processions even as over 70 protestors were detained and 50 persons, including a video-journalist, sustained injuries in the clashes.
Deputy Commissioner Farooq Shah told The Hindu that curfew was imposed in the areas falling under the jurisdiction of Shaheed Gunj, Maisuma and Kothibagh Police Stations. “It has been a usual practice since 1989 to impose curfew and disallow the main processions of 8th and 10th of Muharram. We had some apprehensions of a law and order problem as the Police reported that some people could attempt to disrupt the congregation and politicise the religious event,” Mr. Shah said.
The District Magistrate clarified that prohibitory orders would remain in force on Thursday and Friday on the main streets alone. He said that the Alam, Tazia and Zuljanah processions would, however, continue in the interior localities.
“All the Muharram processions, which have been permitted in the last 25 years, would be allowed in restricted areas with limited presence of the local population,” Mr. Shah said. He asserted that only the main processions of the 8th and 10th day of Muharram (Aashura) would not be allowed.
Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployments put up concertina wires and other barriers to disallow human passage towards the procession venue. Traffic was returned from several entry points. Groups of protestors, nonetheless, managed to surface at Shaheed Gunj, Jehangir Chowk, Batmaloo and other spots while condemning the “ban.” They alleged that the Omar Abdullah government was “carrying forward the practice of interference with the Muslim faith.”
Video-journalist among 50 injured
Groups of the Muharram mourners engaged Police and CRPF in ding-dong battles. They were forced to disperse as the Police baton-charged them and fired tear gas canisters and water cannons. Reports said that over 50 mourners and 15 Police and paramilitary men sustained injuries while as many as 50 to 100 protestors were detained at different Police stations. Photojournalists told The Hindu that ANI’s videographer Hilal Ahmad had his leg fractured when a bullet-proof Rakhshak of the Police “hit him by design.” He was admitted to Bone & Joint Hospital and passed through a surgical procedure.
Superintendent of Police, South, Imtiyaz Parray, denied allegations that the videojournalist had been hit deliberately. “We were chasing the rioters and he got hit accidentally in the stampede,” Mr. Parray said. He claimed that 10 Policemen, including a Sub Inspector, were injured in the rioters’ ston- pelting.