India tightens IHK lockdown over Muharram processions
HELD SRINAGAR: Authorities on Sunday tightened a month-long security lockdown in Srinagar after breaking up religious processions by Muslims who defied a ban.
A military clampdown was imposed in Muslim-majority Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the disputed region’s autonomy, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets. Police drove around the city from early Sunday, announcing through loudhailers that “residents are informed not to venture out of their homes”.
“Strict action under law would be taken against violators,” they added. Most such processions have been banned in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) since the outbreak of insurgency against New Delhi’s rule in 1989, on grounds that the rituals could be used to stoke anti-India sentiment.
At least two small protests were taken out on Sunday morning by between eight to 10 mourners, who were quickly detained and taken away in police vehicles. Police were also seen hitting the mourners with bamboo sticks. Witnesses said they saw at least six more similar protests, with police also detaining the participants. Locals said the processions have taken on a political aspect this year after India’s controversial autonomy decision.
On Saturday, four local journalists were injured while covering a protest involving up to 5,000 demonstrators, one of the biggest gatherings since the lockdown was imposed. One journalist said his camera lens was broken and another had visible marks on his body after he was allegedly hit with bamboo sticks by security personnel. Security forces also fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air.
Authorities had loosened the curfew in parts of held Srinagar gradually in recent weeks but began to enforce it again from Friday. Sunday’s clampdown was one of the tightest since August 5. While barricades had been manned by up to three paramilitary troopers, there were now up to 10.
Tensions could further heighten on Tuesday, which is Ashura, the climactic 10th day of Muharram. While the rituals are traditionally marked by Muslims in the valley, people said they would take part in processions on Tuesday to show solidarity with their fellow Muslims.
Meanwhile, routine life in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) remained suspended, as the curfew and strict communication blockage on Sunday entered the 35th day. According to reports Indian forces had martyred 16 Kashmiris in the month of August and injured 467 with air-gun. Over 10,000 arrested have been booked under draconian law, Public Safety Act since the repeal of the special status of territory by the Indian government on August 05. Those detained under PSA include Hurriyat leaders, political workers, traders, lawyers, social activists, and youth.
Meanwhile, after getting a number of Twitter accounts blocked for raising voice for miserable Kashmiris, the Indian agencies are scanning over 3,500 Facebook and WhatsApp pages and groups, respectively. The authorities have also announced that no Muharram procession will be allowed in the occupied territory, fearing that these gatherings could turn into anti-India demonstrations.