India detains 50 in crackdown on Muslims in Kashmir

Indian police have detained at least 50 people in a crackdown on Shia Muslims trying to hold religious ceremonies in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Police sealed off parts of Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday to stop Shia Muslims from holding mourning rituals to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which reach their peak on the 9th and 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram.

Authorities this year banned the mourning processions as part of coronavirus restrictions, but crackdowns on mourning Shia Muslims are not new and have been reported in the past years too.

Police also set up roadblocks, searched vehicles, and banned Shia Muslim crowds from gathering in parts of Srinagar. The security forces also chased down some mourners who chanted slogans in protest at the restrictions.

“At least 50 mourners were detained in Srinagar who defied the restrictions,” a police officer said, Reuters reported, without identifying the officer by name.

Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar separately told Reuters that two people had already been arrested for chanting anti-India slogans during Muharram processions earlier in the week.

The Muslim-majority territory was already under a crippling lockdown before the coronavirus curbs and since last August, when New Delhi announced it was removing the region’s semi-autonomous status.

Kashmir is disputed territory. It has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. The countries have fought three wars over the region.

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