Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Police fired tear gas shells and used baton to disperse a Muharram procession in in Srinagar's Batmaloo area on Friday. The protestors pelted stones on the police and a fierce clash is going on in the area.
Authorities on Friday imposed curfew like restrictions in Srinagar city to thwart any attempt to take out Muharram procession following apprehensions that separatists might convert the religious gathering into a political assembly. Strict prohibitory orders under section 144 were imposed in areas falling under Kothibagh, Maisuma, Kralkhud and Shaheedgunj police stations of the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.
The officials said the restrictions in these areas were imposed due to apprehensions that separatist groups might attempt to stage anti-national protests during Muharram processions on Friday. Sources said the authorities feared protests over Hardline Hurriyat conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani's call for protests after Friday prayers against the situation in Gaza and BJP's increased rhetoric demanding hanging of 2001 Parliament attack death row convict Afzal Guru.
Police and CRPF personnel were deployed in large numbers in areas of the city under prohibitory orders to prevent any unlawful activity. Before the onset of militancy, the Shia community of the city used to take out processions from Abi Guzar in Kothibagh and Guru Bazaar in Kralkhud police station areas which culminated at Dalgate in Ram Munshi Bagh area to mark the eighth day of the 10-day Muharram mourning period.
However, these processions were banned in 1990 as authorities feared that militants can attack the processions, which is led at many places by separatist leaders, to malign the government. Shops, offices and business establishments remained shut while traffic remained suspended in Lal Chowk and adjacent areas of Maisuma and Residency Road.
The attendance in government offices was also very thin and students at many places faced hardships due to the curbs imposed by authorities. Thousands of tourists were stranded inside their hotels as police did not allow their movement.
(With additional information from PTI)