The Shia community in Kashmir appears to be divided over the purported decision by the administration to allow symbolic Muharram procession in the Lal Chowk area here for the first time in three decades. According to the All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association, the administration has decided to allow the procession after 30 years and welcomed the decision. However, prominent Shia leader and former minister Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi says the decision raises more questions than it answers.
Imran Reza Ansari, president of the All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association, said they were pleased with the decision to allow Muharram procession in Kashmir after a long gap of three decades.’ InshAllah (God willing) AJK Shia Association will lead the procession this year as per past practice’, he wrote on Twitter. President of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shian Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosavi – who has been associated with separatist politics for nearly three decades – was invited to join the procession by Ansari. A traditional Muharram procession used to pass through many areas of the city, including Lal Chowk and Dalgate, but it was banned after the outbreak of militancy in 1990 as authorities maintain that the gathering has been used to propagate separatist politics.
Mehdi questioned the administration’s intentions to allow the symbolic procession from Abi Guzar to Lal Chowk. Mehdi, who represented National Conference from Budgam assembly constituency for three terms, said the state administration decided to allow the 10th Moharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk (a temporary route suggested in 2018) after a gap of 30 years.
According to him, the decision comes at a time when the administration has canceled the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath and the Eid prayers in Jama Masjid and other important places were not allowed because of the Disaster Management Act in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Earlier this week, the IGP Kmr (Kashmir) required people to celebrate Eid at home under the Covid protocols. Despite Covid-19 protocols and more than 100 Fridays without Friday prayers, Jama Masjid has continued to ban Friday prayers.
According to Mehdi, since all other major religious gatherings have continued to be banned, this sudden isolated decision regarding the 10th Moharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk, after 30 years, raises more questions than it answers. ‘It is imperative to prepare for this 10th Moharram procession by praying at Jama Masjid on Friday before this 10th Moharram in order to answer these questions and make it clear that there are no nefarious designs behind this decision. The Friday prayers before this year’s 10th Moharram should precede’, he said. ‘I see nefarious designs behind this particular procession if the Friday prayers and other major religious functions – across all faiths – continue to be banned. Moreover, the people should not fall into this trap as a result of this bait’, Mehdi added.
According to Mehdi, it is the administration’s responsibility to address the issue. The Eid prayer time for this year has passed. In order to demonstrate there are no nefarious intentions, the Jama Masjid should also be allowed to pray on Friday. While an attempt to reach Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, K Pandurang Pole failed, the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Mohammad Ajaz Asad said he could not comment on the issue because the district administration has not issued an order on the matter.