Muharram in Kashmir: A photographic analysis

Published: November 5, 2014
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Kashmiri Shi'ite Muslim mourners are detained by Indian policemen during a Muharram procession in Srinagar. PHOTO: REUTERS

On Sunday, November 2, 2014, Indian authorities imposed severe restrictions in different parts of Srinagar city and prevented Shia mourners from taking out a Muharram procession from Shaheed Ganj area of the city.

Strict orders, as per section 144 regarding processions, were imposed in areas falling under Kothi Bagh, Shaheed Gunj, Maisuma and Kralkhud police jurisdictions of Srinagar city.

The Shia mourners, however, defied the restrictions and continued to take out processions from various areas. Many mourners were seen striking their chests and reciting Noha and Marsia to pay tribute to the martyrs of Karbala.

This ban on Muharram processions in Kashmir is in place since 1990.

Indian police imposed restrictions in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Indian police imposed restrictions in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Indian police imposed restrictions in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Indian police imposed restrictions in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Twitter (Danysh Qureshi @__qureshi)

Police and CRPF personnel were deployed in large numbers in areas of the city under prohibitory orders to prevent any unlawful activity. Photo: Reuters

Kashmiri Muslim women watch a Muharram procession a day before Ashura in Srinagar November 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters

A Kashmiri Shia Muslim mourner holding a pro Shiite flag. Photo: Haziq Qadri

A Kashmiri Shia Muslim performing matam. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Indian police arrests a Shia mourner who tried to defy restrictions put by the government to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Kashmiri Shiah Muslim mourners shout slogans as Indian policemen wield their batons against them during a Muharram procession in Srinagar, November 2, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Indian police arrests a Shia mourner who tried to defy restrictions put by the government to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Twitter (Kashmir Will Rise @irshadnabi152)

Indian police arrests a Shia mourner who tried to defy restrictions put by the government to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Indian police arrests a Shia mourner who tried to defy restrictions put by the government to prevent the mourners from taking out the procession. Photo: Haziq Qadri

Kashmiri Shia Muslim women watch a Muharram procession marking Ashura from a residential building in Srinagar. Photo: Reuters

Preventing Muharram processions is a form of religious aggression. On the pretext of security concerns, religious rituals should not be disturbed. If religious processions are allowed in a country like Pakistan, where the situation during Muharram has been relatively sensitive over the years, why are they not allowed in Kashmir? The question cannot be answered by the ‘law and order’ theory. Instead, if the government allows it under proper security and guidelines, caging and deserting Srinagar will no longer be required. And this may be a step towards bridging the tense gap between Shia and Sunni Muslims of the valley.

Haziq Qadri

Haziq Qadri

A freelance journalist from Indian Administered Kashmir. He is a contributing journalist with Barcroft Media, London. He tweets @haziq_qadri (twitter.com/haziq_qadri)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Critical

    Moharram in Lucknow

    How strange that Moharram is practiced peacefully in all Hindu majority states but have restrictions in the only Sunni Muslim majority state…….Recommend

  • JammuMuslim

    If Indian govt. gives u permission then u will chant anti india slogans and moreover there is always a chance that some people in society of kashmir such as sunnis will create it a conflict of their own indentity crisis…..and when these inter sect killings will happen u people will blame indian government for this…the dilemma is that wheather permission is given or not….trouble will always be there….first mend ur ways of protest…..then we will see..Jammu MuslimRecommend

  • kdp

    We do not want Shia Muslims killed in procession by Sunni terrorists like they do in Pakistan. that is the reason of prohibiting procession.Recommend

  • Lalit

    you are a bit late Mr Qadri….(sorry but this name reminds me of a gentleman who hasn’t stopped his rampage even after being within confines of a jail for quit some time)…….this has become a stale news.
    now i will highly appreciate if respected Moderators at ET allow me to state a few lines(which co-incidentally do not cross any red lines ) regarding the topic being discussed here.the case being made out here is as if Indian govt(at Delhi) somehow doesn’t want Shia mourners to take out processions for fear of some strange things.while the truth is that the radical Sunnis in Kashmir are in driving seat and the ban on Ashura processions is maintained by a majority Sunni led Govt at Srinagar.Central govt in India have absolutely zero role in issues of daily matters of routine.in any case aggrieved party can approach higher judiciary in case of any perceived breach of their rights.Recommend

  • loboran tamzi

    Yeah! Cause guess what? Sunni muslims start attacking shias and killing them (like in other musim countries) and this creates another weird dimension of the conflict that in the end indians have to deal with.
    Shias are allowed to have their processions in all the other areas of ladakh where they are more in number than sunnis and thus dont have conflicts with sunnis.Recommend

  • rp

    election propaganda is in full swing forget these negative photos these are no where seenRecommend

  • loboran tamzi

    You scared to publish the truth?? LolRecommend

  • anil

    I am sad to see such a state of Kashmir during Moharam . But believe us , it is not in GOI’s interest to impose such bans . These processions are very common in other parts of India . Kashmir is a hotspot for sectarian trouble and terrorists can take advantage of this situation . Shitte muslims are one of the prosecuted communities in the world and they are not violent and communal as other muslims . They are safe here.Recommend

  • Sanjay Jha

    The writer is totally confused about the reason for blanket ban on ashura in valley. Let me clarify a bit

    1. Ashuras are not banned in Shia majority areas. You will many pictures of Ashuras in Kashmir from Shia dominated areas!

    2. Ban of ashura in non shia areas is to avoid Shia / Sunni sectarian fight.

    There have been a massive increase in wahabi /hardliner sunni ideology in kashmic since 1989 with Pakistan flushing100,000 Jihadi n last 25years.

    These militant regime is hardliner pro Sunni and they have even killed 1000+ shia muslim in valley!Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    So?

    Even Pandits were not allowed to go to their pilgrimages and Religious places.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Separatist-leader-Syed-Ali-Geelani-manages-to-foil-Pandits-pilgrimage/articleshow/39383572.cms

    Where are the picture blogs about non-Shia/non-Sunni Kashmiris? Where is the condemnation? Was it even reported in ET and Dawn?

    Aren’t Pandits Kashmiris too?

    Pakistan was for minorities of India, but the minorities of Kashmir valley don’t count? Has any Kashmiri Sunni/Shia who blogs here even mentioned how Pandits were driven out of Kashmir, how many have been killed by Seperatists?

    If you hide the inconvenient truth, but only peddle convenient half truths, it is still considered a lie.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “This ban on Muharram processions in Kashmir is in place since 1990.”

    Seems a long time but the people blaming the Indian state also need to wonder why did not the ban was in place from 1947 to 1990.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    I do support India’s democracy. But in this case the Indian security agency got it completely wrong. Father of modern India “Gandhi” was inspired by Imam Hussein (AS) to lead non-violence movement. This is a religious procession not a political protest against Indian rule. Also this blanket security measures go against secular constitutions of India. I also can attest to the fact shias all over India except Kashmir, are allowed to freely take religious procession without any hindrance and in many case full security is provided by the Indian tax payers. I would be happy if Indian govt. also deny the Hindu pilgrimage in the form procession to certain holy places in Kashmir. I won’t be saying anything if any kind of procession is banned in kashmir because of security reason, that includes a Disney parade. There can be a pretext to make this parade a seditious one too.

    Indian govt should support the shias of the Kashmir valley because significant shias support the Indian govt. By banning the ashura procession Indian govt is loosing the PR battle.

    There can never be a military solution to Kashmir issue. Both sides should talk honestly to resolve this pestering issue. Army rule cannot be sustained in the long run. Give people what they want and that needs to be done in a democratic, principled manner.Recommend

  • http://www.skp.com Vishwaroopam

    “Preventing Muharram processions is a form of religious aggression” but then who will be responsible if thousands of Shias and Sunnis will die killing each otherRecommend

  • Chacko Cherian Calicut

    Man if you want to know what is religious agression read about christian couple beaten and burned to dearh in Pak.If India imposed restrictions on Muharram procession it has valid security concerns.You model country Pak anf its guide Saudi is known for massacring Shias on Muharram specially.Kashmiri sunnis might be tempted to do the same..Recommend

  • Syeda KAzmi

    A place where people do not have access to their basic human rights, privilege of Muharram processions is a distant reality…Recommend

  • wiserneighbour

    Don’t score brownies here.The valley was tense after some shooting incident.You know how the rumour mill works in kashmir .Strict security measures were in place to prevent any untoward incident.Dont read too much into this.Your ref about Pakistan is apt.How shiites are targeted and killed in Pakistan is a well known case. India do not have this hatred among Shia and sunnies as of now.Now don’t sow the seeds of venom.Indians are generally peaceful people whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist. Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Firstly, this ban is only there in Srinagar and not the rest of India.

    Secondly, this ban is there because the majority Sunnis have treated the Muharram procession in the past as an easy target and free-for-all.

    Thirdly, this ban was not set by the center but by the Sunni ruling family in Jammu & Kashmir.

    Finally, it is rich posting this article in a Pakistani blog when Shias in Pakistan are being killed willy nilly just for being Shia.Recommend

  • Sane

    Kashmir shall liberate soon and Muslims there shall be free to practice religious rituals.Recommend

  • marik

    If the Ashura procession can be held in Dehli itself then when cant it be held in Kashmir? What is India afraid of?Recommend

  • Lalit

    once in Kashmir a cabbie told me Kashmir tussle has become a source of bread and butter for many and its perpetuation seems profitable than its solution….and this article proves him right.Recommend

  • menon mohan

    Lady dont you realise the irony of your words??You are reading a blog by Kashmiri muslim from India’s Srinagar criticizing Indian authorities banning muharram procession.If you can think a bit,he is free to criticize India without any fear of repercussion nor he is a refugee in some other country.As for the content of his blog he is purposefully hiding the reason behind the ban and putting the blame on India when its been done by Kashmiri state govt of Abdulla’s who are sunnis.Recommend

  • http://www.skp.com Vishwaroopam

    Ban is in sunni dominated state ,by sunni majority govt. of J & K where even police officials are also 100% sunnis , so muslims are committing atrocities on muslims of other sect and curtailing their religious freedom.Recommend

  • shehryar

    @ author
    Well written
    Now get ready for typical Hindu denial and irrelevant pakistan bashing in comments section
    Recommend

  • http://www.skp.com Vishwaroopam

    block head this ban is not by central govt. but by j & K govt. and chief Minister is a muslim and he must be held responsibleRecommend

  • http://www.skp.com Vishwaroopam

    Shias in J & K are supporters of BJP and not of congress.BJP has won in all shia majority areasRecommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    They r free to join their brothers in Hyderabad ( Telangana ) where this is celebrated with the grandest fervour .Not once incident of violence can be seen or heard.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    They r free to join their brothers in Hyderabad ( Telangana ) where this is celebrated with the grandest fervour .Not once incident of violence can be seen or heard.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    India is afraid Shias and Sunnis will kill each otherRecommend

  • abhi

    Wow coming from a citizen of a country where Shias are killed on regular basis.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think author is right. It is time Indian government should show some spine and instead of bending down in front of Hurriyat and other milltant organizations, should allow Muharram procession in Srinagar. Full police and military security should be provided so that millitant cannot create trouble.Recommend

  • Ali

    Ķashmiri MuSlims being killed by fellow Muslims. Indian won’t allow that because they know no one can do this job better than them. Recommend

  • Lalit

    there is nothing like ‘Indian Police’ as being captioned below the photographs of JKP(Jammu and Kashmir Police),which comprises of almost entirely of Sunni Muslims…..so when some Shia blood is being shed during processions(except his own whipping),there are ample chances that the blood shed is being caused by a Sunni Policeman at the direct orders of a Sunni CM.Recommend

  • LOL

    @Sanjay Jha

    If majority is the case, then India should leave Kashmir. Shia aren’t in majority in Pakistan either yet they are free to take out processions and rightly so.Recommend

  • Drone

    Shias will be happy to side with Hindus anyday compared to their Sunni counterparts. They have seen Shiite pilgrims being mercilessly shot in buses in Taftan, Kurram agency etc and also regular bombings in other Hazara areas. Touch wood, India and Kashmir have been free from such nasty incidents mainly because of the role of the armed forces. Recommend

  • observer

    This is a restriction imposed by the Kashmiri Sunni Muslim adminstration and that too only in Srinagar. The ban was put in to prevent Sunni extremists from killing the Shia procession people. Muharram processions are carried out in peace all over India. The author seems to have malicious intent in being selective with facts and spinning the truth.Recommend

  • Syeda KAzmi

    what irony? I said it in the same context that author has expressed in the blog.. i just add a point that they do not have the heart for basic human rights, so what else we can expect from these cruel people?
    Don’t jump to judgements, first try to understand the point!Recommend

  • Lalit

    sadly federal system in India doesn’t allow this to happen…..though people in J&K have an opportunity in incoming assembly election to pave way for that t happen.Recommend

  • Lalit

    sadly federal system in India doesn’t allow this to happen…..though people in J&K have an opportunity in incoming assembly election to pave way for that t happen.Recommend

  • thinkaboutit

    What a silly point you attempt to make in the end. According to you, due to the presence of sectarian violence in Pakistan, a blog cannot appear on a Pakistani site discussing an example of of a religious ban in India. That doesn’t make sense at all. I can understand where the hostility between Indians an Pakistanis, but there is a disgusting trend of taking a perverse pleasure over problems that the other country is beset by, even if they are tragic or violent in nature, and that really insults the human suffering that is a consequence of these events
    Recommend