Now Marked Under Restrictions, Ashura Was Once Observed With Freedom

Now Marked Under Restrictions, Ashura Was Once Observed With Freedom

15 November 2013
Kashmir Times


Srinagar: As restrictions mark the day of Ashura in Kashmir for the past 23 years, the day would once be celebrated with freedom and liberty in the Valley. The celebration of Ashura, the 10th day of the Muharram (first month of Islamic calendar) dates back to the conversion of Kashmiris to Islam. The tradition of taking out mass Ashura processions began during the time of Sultan Sikander in 796 Hajri (Islamic calendar). The practice continued and grew in different parts of Kashmir amongst the Shia community. “The first imambara was made during the Chak dynasty in 1527. It gave a proper place for the celebration,” said writer, Zareef Ahmad Zareef. During 1919-1920, government directed the processions to be taken out during the night. The practice continued till Sheikh Abdullah allowed day processions in the month of Muharram. “The celebration would mark the whole valley. Sunni Muslims would also be a part of it. It was a sign of religious tolerance and brotherhood,” Zareef said. People would take out processions from different parts of the Valley while Sunni Muslims offered milk, water and food items on their way. “I do not remember any incident of conflict between the two sects of Muslims during these days. Even today, people have no problem with it,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a retired teacher. He said the whole Valley would wear a festive look on this day. Special Islamic gatherings were held which would be joined by both Muslim sects. With the onset of insurgency, restrictions and even curfews were imposed from 8th Muharram to 10th to foil processions. Reasoning the restrictions, government says it is done to prevent attacks on the Shia community. “But who will attack them? All Muslims are with them. They are safe. It is only being politicized to malign people of Kashmir,” Muzaffar added. Abdullah, 70-year old Sunni Muslim, has been a part of several Ashura processions in his childhood. “For the past two decades, I have not been able to reason all these restrictions. When for centuries, no one did anything to Shias, why would it happen now? Government has pure political interest.” He remembers Sunni Muslims invited for special dinners on this day. People from the Shia community feel their religious sentiments are being hurt every time restrictions are imposed. “It is our right to practice our religion the way we want. The authorities only try to tell the world that we are all terrorists here. They just need a reason to label us,” a young group of boys said.