In a surprising move, authorities in Kashmir allowed Shias to carry out a Muharram procession in Srinagar, after a gap of three decades. However, shortly afterwards, the permission was revoked. On 17 August, Jammu and Kashmir police forces lathi charged Shias participating in the procession and fired tear gas shells and pellet guns. Bullets were also fired in the air. Atleast two dozen people were injured.
Several Shia leaders in Kashmir raised questions over the government’s decision to allow the procession. The Shias accused the Indian state of trying to create a wedge between the Shia and Sunni communities. They believe this is a government strategy to exercise greater control over Kashmir. They said there is a state propaganda machinery which tries to portray them as pro-India, but they too have suffered like their Sunni brethren.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police has registered two FIRs, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, against the mourners for chanting pro-freedom slogans and carrying banners reading “Free Kashmir, Oppressed Kashmir.”
Vijay Kumar, Kashmir’s inspector general of police, said the police respects the religious sentiments of the public, but at the same time, it is their responsibility to defeat the “ill designs of vested interests” who try to disturb the peace.