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Jammu & Kashmir: Indian police attack Muharram processions injuring 40 Kashmiris

30th Aug 2020
Jammu & Kashmir: Indian police attack Muharram processions injuring 40 Kashmiris

By Hilal Mir


SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) : Forty Kashmiris were injured on Saturday when Indian police dispersed a procession with disproportionate force, eye witnesses said. Indian forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas shells at the Muharram procession.

Nazir Ahmad, an eye witness, said hundreds of mourners were marching near the Hamadania Colony on the outskirts of the capital Srinagar as part of the procession to mark the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

“But some youths shouted pro-freedom slogans. Police charged at us with teargas and pellets.

“Many were injured and some taken to hospital,” he said.

Six of the mourners with pellet injuries were brought to the city’s largest Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, Dr Nazir Choudhary, medical superintendent of the hospital, told Anadolu Agency.

“Three have pellet injuries in the eye. Doctors are assessing the severity of their injuries,” he said.

One of the injured was Bashir Hajam.

On 29 August, the 23-year-old was on a stretcher at a hospital, his right hip bears the mark of a tear gas shell while his back is pockmarked with wounds from metal pellets fired from shotguns.

Mr. Hajam was with a friend when the police reached the Khomeini Chowk area. Within a moment, he said, police personnel jumped out of the vehicle and fired a teargas shell at them. As he lay on the ground, on his chest, the personnel “cocked his gun and fired pellets at me,” he said, writhing in pain. “He knew I couldn’t move,” reports KashmirWalla.

Mr. Hajam could not even bear the thin sheet that covered his wounds. “It hurts a lot,” he said as tears rolled down his cheeks. “My entire body is aching.” In the hallway at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS), Mr. Hajam was not alone. Besides him, with at least five other young men who were injured by metal pellets.

The procession that was taken out in Khomeini Chowk was organised by three-four local anjumans — or groups — said Syed Ali, a local resident, and was attended by nearly 500 mourners. The mourners were taking out the procession peacefully and “there was no stone pelting”, he said.

“People were following the SOPs for the COVID-19 [to curb the spread of the virus]. They [authorities] are deliberately provoking people,” said Mr. Ali. “If it was for COVID-19, they should have facilitated the processions – what does it mean when you fire pellets and teargas shells at a hundred people out for processions.”

Senior Superintendent of Police in Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal, told The Kashmir Walla that the procession was not allowed implementing directions by the Supreme Court and the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s “orders that no procession shall be taken out in view of the COVID [19].”

On the use of force against the mourners, Mr. Mughal said: “When there is an apprehension of law and order [situation], when they are pelting [stones] on the force, that [teargas shells and pellets fired] was done to restore the highway and to keep it through. Why does the police use force? It is to keep law and order under control and we have used the minimum force.”

Another mourner, 21-year-old Shabir Hussain, was injured when he was marching towards the Khomeini Chowk, at the head of the procession coming out from the Hamdania colony in Srinagar. He and other mourners had not anticipated the police’s actions, he said.

“The elders of the area were standing near the police [personnel] and they had allowed the procession [initially],” he said, adding that he before could figure out anything, things had changed. “The police resorted to the lathi charge [on the mourners]including on me, and I tried to run,” he said.

A police personnel fired pellets at him from a close range, “not more than 15-meter distance”, Mr. Shabir told The Kashmir Walla; other eye-witnesses, his friends, corroborated the same.

Mr. Shabir’s upper body is scarred with wounds from metal pellets while his left eye had blackened and his hair was clipped on his face as the blood dried. An attempt to remove strands of hair from his wounds prompted him to cry out in pain. “I can’t see from this eye,” he said of his left eye. “The vision comes and goes.”

Adil Hyderi, who owns a shop in the Khomeini Chowk area, said that the mourners in the procession were ready to wrap the procession within two hours — a practice, he said, would normally take six hours. He doesn’t understand why the police would fire teargas shells at the mourners, he said.

“They attacked women and children in the area,” said the 25-year-old shopkeeper. “A 10-year-old was hit in front of me. We have been experiencing this oppression since our childhood. This is what we expect from them.”

Prominent Shia leader Imran Reza Ansari tweeted: “Want to ask the Jammu and Kashmir Admin if permission was granted for peaceful procession with Covid-19 SOPs why were the mourners of Imam Hussain beaten up brutally.”

He also tweeted a picture of an injured mourner on a hospital bed whose abdomen is covered with blood.

During the past week, police used baton or teargas canisters to disperse mourners in a few smaller processions in various parts of Srinagar, eyewitnesses said.

On Thursday, a police spokesman said three men were booked under an anti-terror law after a video surfaced in which people were shouting pro-freedom slogans during a similar procession on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Pakistan in a statement on Saturday condemned the use of force on the mourners.

“Equally condemnable are the restrictions imposed on religious processions and gatherings during Muharram [the first month of the Islamic calendar],” said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Disputed region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions of its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state with its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.

Simultaneously, it locked the region down, detaining thousands of people, imposing movement restrictions, and enforcing a communications blackout.

Additional report from The Kashmir Walla

[Photo: Indian soldiers patrol near the site of gun-battle in Pantha Chowk area of Srinagar, Kashmir on Ashura [30 Muharram] day on August 30, 2020, the day after the Indian forces attacked and injured Kashmiri Muslims in a peaceful procession commemorating martyrdom of Imam Husayn, grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Photographer: Faisal Khan/AA]

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