After a gap of over 30 long years, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to allow the Muharram process in Srinagar, the summer capital of the Union Territory.

Although most of the Shia organizations of Kashmir Valley have hailed this decision, former National Conference minister, Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi has raised questions over the timing of allowing Muharram procession.

Before the eruption of terrorism in Kashmir Valley, the traditional Muharram procession used to pass through many areas of the city, including from Lal Chowk to Dalgate area, but the same has been banned since 1990.

Muharram. Reuters

Shia leaders hail the decision, assure to follow COVID protocol

Prominent Shia leader of Kashmir Valley, Imran Raza Ansari, who now heads Shia Association while welcoming the order announced that his party would lead the procession of Ashura as per past practice (pre-terrorism period). Imran Ansari is the son of the late Moulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari-one of the tallest Shia leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.

"As a mark of respect for Shaheede Karbala Moula Imam Hussain (AS) I request Hujat ul Islam Aga Syed Hassan Al Moosavi Sb to Join us at Abiguzar where the Jaloos of Ashoora will commence its journey after a gap of more than 30 years", Imran tweeted.

"We at All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association welcome the Govt's decision to allow Muharram procession in Kashmir after a gap of 3 decades. Inshallah AJK Shia Association will lead the procession this year as per past practice", Imran stated in another tweet.

Hailing the decision, another prominent Shia leader, Abid Hussain Ansari asked the government to take effective steps to ensure smooth passing of the process.

Muharram, muslims, weird practice, pain,

"First time after 30 years, authorities have decided to allow Muharram process in Srinagar, so we are expecting gathering between three to four lakhs so the government has to take all measures to ensure safety and protection of the procession", Abid Ansari told The International Business Times.

He hoped that process will be allowed to follow its traditional 12-kilometer-long traditional route to reach Zadibal Downtown.

"On behalf of our organization we assured the government that COVID protocol would be followed strictly to check the spread of the virus", he said, adding, "taking out process amid pandemic is a big challenge before organizers but following SoPs is our priority".

DCs, SPs are in touch with Shia organizations for arrangements

Reports said that order was issued after a meeting held under the chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Pandurang K Pole here on Saturday.

"It was decided that Muharram shall be celebrated as per the past practice; however, in view of the COVID, the guidelines shall adhere in letter and spirit", a local newspaper of Kashmir reported while quoting the order.

"The administration said that all the necessary arrangements shall be put in place for the convenience of the people and the decision of the commemoration of Muharram shall be left up to the Shia organizations for which all the Deputy Commissioners and Senior Superintendents of Police shall be in touch with them", reported the newspaper.

The dates on which the procession has been allowed, include two major processions of 8th and 10th of Muharram. Both these processions were banned in the early nineties with the onset of terrorism in Kashmir.

Former National Conference Minister raises question over the timing

Former National Conference Minister Aga Ruhullah Mehdi questioned the government order.

"Given the fact that all other major religious gatherings (with no exception to any particular religion) continue to be banned this sudden isolated decision about the 10th Muharram procession from Abiguzar to Lal Chowk, after a gap of 30 years, raises more questions than it answers", Mehdi tweeted.

"This decision has come at the time when the Administration has called off Amarnath yatra. Eid prayers this year were not allowed at Jama Masjid & other important places imposing the Disaster Management Act", he stated in another tweet.