Ashoora processions taken out amid minor sectarian conflict
20 January 2008
The Daily Excelsior
SRINAGAR: Even as thin groups of Karbala mourners clashed with Police in Srinagar Civil Lines and a downtown locality witnessed minor sectarian clashes, thousands of Shia Muslim devotees observed Ashoora-anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain on 10th Moharram-while performing traditional forms of the mourning in scores of Zuljanah, Alam and Tazia processions all over the Valley. In the capital city, the largest attended Zuljanah procession was taken out as per tradition from Jan Mohalla locality of Lal Bazar in the forenoon which adopted its traditional route of Botakadal, Madeen Sahib, Almgari Bazar and culminated into a Majlis-e-Sham-e-Gareebaan at the historic Imambara of Zadibal late in the evening. Earlier, on Shab-e-Ashoora, thousands of men, women and children participated in three Alam and Tazia processions in Zadibal locality which were taken out one after another. Shia mourners attended Marsiya and Nowha rituals of the mourning in praise and commemoration of the martyrs of Karbala at Zadibal and all Shia localities in the Valley. Official estimated the number of participants in today's Ashoora procession in Lal Bazar Zadibal area between 30,000 to 50,000. However, leaders of Shia community insisted that more than 60,000 devotees participated in the traditional Zuljanah procession. As usual, Majlis-e-Sham-e-Gareebaan was addressed at Zadibal Imambara by prominent Shia cleric and President of J&K Shia Association Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari. Reports said that relatively thinner Alam and Zuljanah procession were also taken out at six other places in Srinagar district. The second largest Zuljanah procession was taken out under the management of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shiaa'n from Imambara Mirgund at 1100 hours in the forenoon which was attended by more than 15,000 Shia mourners. As per a tradition, the procession had an afternoon prayers halt at Bihisht-e-Zehra, a public park near Deputy Commissioner's office in Budgam. It concluded partly at historic Imambara of Budgam and partly at the Shariatabad residence of Aga Sahib of Budgam late in the evening. Reports said that more than 50 Zuljanah, Alam and Tazia processions were also taken out in different Shia localities in Budgam, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag districts in the Valley. According to these reports, thousands of Shia mourners participated in such solemn rallies at Delina, Iskandarpora, Bemina, Ichhigam, Sandipora, Inderkoot, Mirgund Pattan, Dab Wakoora, Shitsan Devsar, Gangua, Wakherwan, Chhatergul, Tral, Kamalkote, Dhani Sayyidaan (Uri) and other Shia-dominated localities. Braving the coldest season of the year, Chilla-e-Kalan, Shia mourners came on the streets and performed matam in the name of Hazrat Imam Hussain and other martyrs of Karabala on village Imambargahs throughout the night and in the Zuljanah procession for the whole day. As usual-and inspite of a negative advisory from Iran-hundreds of Shia youth performed the mourning with self- flagellation and striking of sharp-edged weapons and tools on their own bodies to spill their own blood. Reports said that over a hundred Shia devotees donated their blood for the needy patients through Imam Hussain Foundation and its subsidiary, Hussaini Blood Bank, at Zadibal. Tension had gripped several localities in the capital city last evening itself when a minor clash took place between two groups of youth from Shia and Sunni communities in Gojwara- Nowhatta-Hawal belt, close to the Shia-dominated locality of Zadibal. Officials said that stone pelting took place between men of the two communities in Nowhatta area in which about a dozen civilians sustained injuries. Some of the injured were rushed to hospital for treatment. Reports said that the minor sectarian clash occurred when groups of Shia youth entered into a verbal dual with those of the majority Sunni community. Officials said that about a dozen people from either community sustained injuries. Some of them were admitted to Hospital for treatment. In the morning too, small groups from Shia and Sunni localities traded slogans and charges in Zadibal-Nowhatta area, even as authorities had late last night imposed restrictions on the movement of the warring factions. Situation improved when the authorities deployed CRPF in Zadibal and restricted J&K Police to Lal Bazar area. Many people of Shia community had complained last evening that Police played a partisan role in dealing with the rival groups. Official sources said that 12 to 15 people from both sects sustained injuries in the overnight ding-dong clashes. Surprisingly, rather than bringing down tension, J&K Police issued an official statement which related a death in family feud in Budgam district to a Moharram procession. It took the people of Kashmir several hours to learn from media and other sources that last evening's clash in Sebdan village in Budgam had nothing to do with religion or a Moharram procession. 'On 19.01.2008, during Moharram procession at Sebdan Galwanpora, falling under the jurisdiction of Police Station Budgam, a clash took place between processionists of the same community during which 11 person sustained injuries. The injured were hospitalized amongst whom Gh. Rasool 60 years, S-o Mohd Asgar , R-o Galwanpora succumbed to his injuries at SKIMS Srinagar. Police has registered a case in this regard', read a Zonal Police headquarters press release. Residents as well as SSP Budgam, S A H Bukhari, told EXCELSIOR that a retired school-teacher Mohammad Safdar Khanday of Sebdan, Budgam, and his family members and relatives had launched an organized attack on the next-door neighbour Ghulam Rasool Mir, his brother Ghulam Hussain Mir and their family members well after a Moharram procession ended in the village last evening. They said that the assailants used brickbats, batons and axes. One of the assailants struck the blow of his axe on the head of 58-year-old Ghulam Rasool Mir who was rushed to SKIMS but died during treatment. They said that 11 others sustained injuries in the clash. Decades-long family feud is said to be the reason behind the clash. Both the parties are followers of the Shia cleric and mainstream politician Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari. Budgam Police have lodged an FIR and begun search for the accused who have all vanished into different localities. Residents said that the main accused had last week only returned from Saudi Arabia after performing Haj. Police officials said that the retired teacher's son, who is working as a doctor in Kupwara district, after completing his MBBS in Iran or Russia, had allegedly struck the axe on the deceased Ghulam Rasool Mir's head. Barring in Zadibal area, there was no sectarian tension in any locality all over the Valley. At several places, even members from Sunni community were seen sharing the mourning with their token participation in the Zuljanah processions. In Srinagar Civil Lines, about a hundred people were detained for the day at two Police stations after they were picked up for allegedly violating the prohibitory orders. As has been the practice since 1989, authorities had already decided not to allow the main Ashoora procession which used to come out from Abi Guzar locality. Thick Police bandobust and the streets frozen with Constantine wire were the familiar features of the day in uptown where thin groups of activists chanted religious and political slogans but they were soon lifted and detained at Police stations. However, all of them, according to official sources, had been released by late tonight.