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Srinagar: Shia devotees clash with cops, 30 injured

December 26, 2009 18:04 IST

At least 30 people were injured on Saturday when Shia devotees clashed with the police in Srinagar, after they were prevented from taking out a Muharram procession, in violation of prohibitory orders in force in the city.

Police fired warning shots in air, lobbed tear gas shells and used batons to disperse stone-pelting processionists at Lal Chowk and adjoining Abi Guzar, official sources said.

The trouble started when a Muharram procession of the Shia community, led by Nissar Hussain Rather of Tehreek-e-Wahadat-e-Islami, was stopped by police personnel at Maulana Azad Road and asked to disperse, the sources said. They said after the initial heated exchange between the police and the processionists, security personnel used batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse them.

Rather was taken into preventive custody, the sources said, adding that the police tried to persuade the devotees to disperse, as no procession could be allowed in view of prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC being in force in the city.

The processionists regrouped and pelted stones on the policemen who retaliated by lobbing tear gas shells and used batons to disperse them. At least 30 people were injured in the clash, the sources said.

Another group of Shia community was camping in Pratap Park since today morning to protest the 'ban' on processions. They offered afternoon prayers in the Park, where their leader and president of Itehad-ul-Muslimeen Masroor Abbas Ansari delivered sermons and criticised the administration for refusing to allow Muharram processions since the eruption of militancy in the state.

The trouble soon spread in the adjoining areas of Lal Chowk, Budshah Chowk, Court Road, Maisuma, Kokerbazar and Red Cross Road, disrupting normal life in these areas. Shopkeepers pulled down their shutters and vehicles stayed off the roads in the affected areas, the sources said.

While a group of the processionists engaged the police in Lal Chowk and other areas, others in small groups reached Hyderi Hall at Dalgate to perform religious rituals there.

The state high court, while dismissing a writ petition challenging the 'ban' imposed by the government on Muharram processions in Srinagar, had on December 23 directed it to communicate to the Shia community well in time the 'permission or refusal' to take out the processions this year.

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