By Shah Abbas
Srinagar, India, July 27 (EFE).- The authorities in India-administered Kashmir Thursday revoked a 33-year-old restriction and allowed Shia Muslims to carry out processions marking the month of mourning.
Hundreds of Shia Muslims in Srinagar, the main city in the disputed region, came out beating their chests while reciting elegies to mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, in Karbala, Iraq, some 1400 years ago.
The authorities had fixed the timing of the procession from 6 am to 8 am, however it stretched up to 11 am due to the huge participation and culminated peacefully, according to eyewitness accounts.
“Hundreds of volunteers were seen distributing water to thousands of mourners amid humid conditions,” an eyewitness said.
A ban on Muharram processions was imposed in 1989 with the start of the armed insurgency in the conflict-ridden valley.
Shia mourners would still carry out processions, often ending in clashes with police in the last three decades, resulting in dozens of injuries every year.
However, it remains to be seen if the government would allow the biggest mourning procession on Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
The procession on Thursday marked the eighth day on the calendar.
Lifting the ban serves the purpose of pushing forward the government’s narrative of having brought back peace to Indian Kashmir following the abrogation of its semi-autonomous status in August 2019.
“It is because of the changed situation that the historic decision to allow the Muharram procession was taken,” a police officer posted to protect the Shia mourners told EFE under anonymity.
“To allow the Muharram procession through its traditional routes is one of the peace dividends,” Srinagar District Magistrate Aijaz Asad told reporters.
Earlier, the Additional Director General of Police, Vijay Kumar, told reporters that after a series of security review meetings, it was decided to allow this year’s Muharram procession.
“We started deploying officers and men at 2 am to ensure peaceful conduct of the procession,” Kashmir police chief said.
Analysts believe that due to the strict policy against separatism, there is silence across the Himalayan region after August 2019.
The government of India has not only adopted a tough stand against the separatism but, Pakistan as well, which according to New Delhi, has been sponsoring terrorism in the region.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday claimed that its forces were ready to “cross the Line of Control – LoC, or the de facto border – to maintain its honor and dignity.”
While speaking during the 24th Kargil war anniversary in Ladakh, Rajnath called upon civilians to “be ready to support the soldiers in such a situation.”
Over the last few decades, coinciding with the period of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley, thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the strife. EFE