The white smoke from a whirling shiny steel tear smoke canister reels up in the cold winter air, and incessant ambulance sirens cut across the jumbled far away voices. Smoke lingers like a heavy curtain over the road, making scores of slogan shouting mourners look like silhouettes emerging out of mist. Several people lie flat on the black tarmac and on side pavements mumbling, ‘Ya Hussain- Ya Hussain’. On the eighth day of Muharram, a four kilometer procession of Shiite mourners in
“What harm have we done to you? We are only following our religion, please let us go and mourn our loss,” an old woman pleads before a group of J-K policemen and CRPF personnel. “One day, God will seek an answer from you for wielding this baton on a mourner.”
The Muharram procession in Shiite sect of Muslims mourns the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain. It was the battle field of
The procession was banned by in 1989 after militancy started in the valley. Shiite mourners today hoped that the new government will be lenient with the processions and not injure any of them. “We thought that the democratic government has been restored and we would not be beaten mercilessly but we are again disappointed and our religion is being suppressed,” says Aamir Ali, 26, a mourner.
As the procession advances slowly, the protestors pelt the tear smoke shells back on the police party, and move forward in a fast run. Police retrieves a few meteres, but fires dozens of tear canisters back straight at the crowd. The crowd again disappears behind the smoke and police follows for a baton charge.
“If the government can provide security for so many yatris, why can they do it for us? Why is out faith and religion being strangled,” says Ajaz Hussain Joo, a mourner.
Zamin Ali, a five year old boy, in the middle of a group of women mourners resisting arrest, sobs without noise. Tear drops trickle over his nose blushed by cold, as his grandmother tightens the black band on his head. “I want to go home. Please take me home,” he cries.
The Imam Bada is now just a few lanes ahead and that is where the procession is headed. Police again fires tear smoke canisters and the mourners scatter again. No mourner gets past the Dalgate crossing.
More than fifty meters ahead in a narrow lane, next to Imam Bada, two long files of mourners raise Pro Hamas and pro Hussain slogans. The men move their heads in unison, their hard palms strike the hollow rib cages in rhythm with the slogans and the women cry. Girls are perched on top of windows and lightly beating their chest, in sync with the rhythm. The high pitched slogans halt abruptly, a mellowed song of mourning begins and one leads to another.
All the Shiites want to reach here to mourn together. Today, this lane is out of bounds for the Shiites other than those who live in the locality. There are no concertina wires though, no bullets have been shot today but ambulances ferry injured to the same hospitals no differently than before.