Security forces crackdown on Muharram procession in Indian Kashmir
Srinagar, India, August 17 (EFE).- Government forces on Tuesday fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of Shia mourners attempting to take out a procession during the Muslim festival of Muharram in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The police also detained dozens of mourners amid tight security restrictions in the main city of Srinagar and beat up several journalists covering the traditional religious procession.
“We respect the religious sentiments and practices of all but at the same time it is also our joint responsibility to defeat the ill designs of vested interest who try to disturb peaceful atmosphere,” tweeted Vijay Kumar, the Inspector General of Police in Kashmir.
Muharram processions have been banned in the Indian part of Kashmir – divided between India and Pakistan – since 1989 when an armed rebellion broke out against Indian rule in the region.
Since then, only small mourning rallies and processions with certain restrictions are allowed, and anti-India slogans are often heard during these gatherings.
According to eye witness accounts, the police detained dozens of mourners who defied the restrictions in place and went ahead with their procession.
An official at the Police Control Room confirmed to EFE on the condition of anonymity that some Shia mourners had been taken into “preventive custody”.
“Some mourners surfaced in the Dalgate area of the city and were dispersed by the use of tear smoke canisters,” an eye-witness who asked not to be named told EFE.
The authorities had imposed severe restrictions in diffent parts of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, and set up numerous checkpoints and blocked access along several roads to thwart Muharram processions.
A group of journalists were physically assaulted by the security forces personnel while covering the situation in the city.
“Government forces hit everyone who came in their way including journalists,” a reporter at the scene told EFE on the condition of anonymity. He claimed that his camera was also damaged by the men in uniform.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan by a highly militarized de facto border called the Line of Control since their independence from the British in 1947.
The two countries have fought two wars and numerous minor conflicts over the region since then. EFE