India: police arrest and fires teargas to disperse religious minority procession, assault media workersEvent
- Initial Date
- Aug 17, 2021
- Event Description
Police in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) fired tear gas and warning shots on Tuesday to disperse members of the Shia Muslims community who attempted to participate in processions marking the month of Muharram. Dozens of people were detained.
Hundreds of Muslims chanting religious and pro-freedom slogans took to the streets in the main city of Srinagar despite security restrictions banning the traditional procession.
Government forces used batons to beat journalists covering the procession, according to a local reporter. Authorities erected steel barricades and barbed wire to block the crowds.
“We respect the religious sentiments and practices of all, but at the same time, it is also our joint responsibility to defeat the ill designs of vested interests who try to disturb the peaceful atmosphere,” Inspector General of Polce Vijay Kumar said on Twitter.
Muharram is among the holiest months for Shia Muslims across the world and includes large processions in which people recite elegies to mourn the death of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson. The mourning reaches its peak on Ashura, the 10th day of the month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Tuesday’s procession marked the eighth day on the calendar.
The traditional religious procession turned violent last year as Indian forces fired shotgun pellets to disperse crowds, injuring dozens.
Some main Muharram processions have been banned in Indian occupied Kashmir since 1989 when the locals demanded the region’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan.
Kashmiri Muslims have long complained that the government is curbing their religious freedom on the pretext of maintaining law and order while promoting an annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan Amarnath Shrine in Kashmir that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors. The pilgrimage has been cancelled for the last two years because of the coronavirus.
A group of journalists were chased and assaulted with batons by police in full public glare to prevent them from covering the Muharram procession in the nerve centre of Srinagar on Tuesday.
The police action resulted in injuries and damage to equipment of journalists when they were merely doing their professional duties. Videos and photos splashed on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter showed policemen including their officer holding sticks chasing away and beating journalists on the road with utter disregard.
Some of the journalists who were present at the spot and received the thrashing told Kashmir Reader that the attack came when a police officer named ‘Aftab Ahmad’ abused and pushed some photojournalists who were capturing police lathi charge on Shia mourners. The mourners carrying black flags had taken out a procession in Lal Chowk to commemorate Muharram. Early in the morning, government forces including police and CRPF were deployed in strength in several Srinagar areas to prevent the mourners from taking out procession.
Amid this, many people carrying flags were able to reach Jehangir Chowk. A photojournalist Sajad Hameed who was at the spot covering the Muharram procession that he received a few baton thrashing on his legs and his camera was broken too. “It resulted in damage worth over Rs 20,000,” he added.
“Police officer Aftab Ahmad abused another journalist. We asked him not to do so. In response he attacked us, charged on us, in which many were minorly injured,” Sajad added.
According to him, the police officer Aftab Ahmad also pushed photo journalist of Hindustan Times Wasim Andrabi for nothing. He said the journalists were spread in groups capturing the procession from various angles when they were beaten.
“It was when another police officer joined in and asked them not to beat us that the beating stopped,” he added.
Andrabi told KNO that the policemen “from Shergarhi Police Station led by SHO Aftab Ahmad, beat them to the pulp for no reasons”. “We were even told that (an) FIR will be registered against us,” he added.
A video in social media showed that Aftab went berserk on a group of journalists on Tuesday morning.
“We were Covering the protest. When I saw a policeman attacking a fellow journalist l, I rushed to the spot to check what was happening. In between there was a lathi charge. We moved to a secure place, ” said photojournalist Faisal Khan.
“The cop did not listen to us for a moment and we found wisdom in escape” he added.
In the past police have said that police will act professionally while handling journalists on the ground and will make efforts to prevent the attacks.
Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar Sandeep Choudhary was not available for the comments when reached by Kashmir Reader.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Intimidation and Threats
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of Religion and Belief
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Community-based HRD
- Media Worker
- Minority rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 17 August 2021, a crows of Muslim religious minority was met by arrest and teargas fired by the police while staging a religious procession, while a dozen of media workers covering the incident were physically attacked, intimidated and had their equipment damaged in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, India.