Kashmiri Shia politician Ruhullah Mehdi said if the Friday prayers and other major religious functions continue to be banned in wake of COVID-19 pandemic and ‘this particular procession suddenly encouraged in isolation, I see nefarious designs behind it’
Srinagar: Divisions have appeared in the Shia community in Kashmir over the administration’s purported decision to allow symbolic Muharram procession in the Lal Chowk area in Srinagar after a gap of three decades.
All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association has claimed the administration has decided to allow the procession after 30 years and has welcomed the move, but prominent Shia leader and former minister Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi said the decision raises more questions than it answers.
President, All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association, Imran Reza Ansari said they welcome the decision to allow Muharram procession in Kashmir after a gap of three decades.
“InshAllah (God willing) AJK Shia Association will lead the procession this year as per past practice,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ansari invited president of Anjuman-e-Sharee Shian Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosavi — who has been associated with separatist politics for nearly three decades — to join the procession.
The traditional Muharram procession used to pass through many areas of the city, including from Lal Chowk to Dalgate area, but has been banned since the eruption of militancy in 1990 as authorities maintain that the religious gathering has been used for propagating separatist politics.
Mehdi raised questions over the administration’s intention to allow the symbolic procession from Abi Guzar to Lal Chowk.
“There is list of decisions-taken in circulation, in which, if my reading of this order is correct, the administration has decided to allow the 10th Moharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk (a temporary and alternate route proposed in 2018) after a gap of 30 years,” Mehdi, who represented National Conference from Budgam Assembly constituency for three terms, said.
In a series of tweets, he said the decision has come at a time when the administration has called off the annual Amarnath yatra and the Eid prayers this year were not allowed at Jama Masjid and other important places by imposing the Disaster Management Act in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Only a few days ago the IGP Kmr (Kashmir) told people to celebrate Eid ‘at their homes’ invoking COVID-19 protocols. The Friday prayers at Jama Masjid have not been allowed for the last more than 100 Fridays and continue to be banned, again invoking COVID-19 protocols. The list goes on,” he said.
Mehdi said given the fact that all other major religious gatherings, with no exception to any particular religion, continued to be banned, “this sudden isolated decision about 10th Moharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk, after a gap of 30 years, raises more questions than it answers”.
“To answer those questions and to make it clear that there are no nefarious designs behind this decision, this 10th Moharram procession should be preceded by Friday prayers at Jama Masjid before this 10th Moharram. Friday prayers before this year’s 10th Moharram should precede,” he said.
The Shia leader said if the Friday prayers and other major religious functions — across all religions — continue to be banned and “this particular procession suddenly encouraged in isolation”, “I see nefarious designs behind it”.
“The people should not fall for this bait and into this trap,” he added.
Mehdi said the responsibility lies with the administration to come clean over the issue.
“Now, that the time for Eid prayer this years has passed. Lift the ban on Friday prayers at Jama Masjid too, like you suddenly took this decision and prove that there are no nefarious designs,” he said.
While efforts to reach Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, K Pandurang Pole did not fructify, Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Mohammad Ajaz Asad said he cannot comment over the issue as the district administration has not issued any such order.