Youm-e-Ashura: When I witnessed the mourning

Ashura observed with religious fervour across JK

On 10th September 2019, It was Youm-e-Ashura, the 37th consecutive day of clampdown in the Kashmir valley by the state government followed by the New Delhi’s unilateral decision of August 5th by which the Article 370 and 35A was abrogated. There were curbs in the valley and more particularly in Shia dominated areas across the state to prevent the Ashura procession which marks the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA), the grandson of the last Prophet Mohammad (SAW). The day represents the everlasting stance of truth against falsehood and the struggle against injustice, oppression and cruelty, the cause for which Imam Husssain (RA) was martyred.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had already announced ban on Muharram procession beginning from September 8th to the 10th Muharram. The situation was tense all around the Kashmir valley and very feeble movement of traffic was visible on the roads. Mobile and internet services also remained suspended. Schools and colleges were closed, business establishment continued to stay shut and as routine public transport remained off the roads. There was tremendous escalation on the Line of Control (LoC) between the two arch rivals as both armies targeted each other’s forward posts with heavy mortar shelling and there were few casualties on both sides as well and the authorities on both sides had evacuated the civilian population on the border sides as the shelling intensified in Mankote, Balakote and Mendhar in Poonch district, Sunderbani, R.S Pora Sector, Uri sector, and several other areas of Jammu and Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC) and international border.

The International community especially the USA, Germany, China, Russia and Britain, the five permanent members of the Security Council were pressing both countries to solve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally and were offering their mediation over Kashmir to deescalate the situation in the region. In the given situation the USA president, Donald Trump had once again reiterated his offer to help India and Pakistan through mediation in easing the bilateral tension over Kashmir dispute at a time when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at Geneva was in session where the Indo-Pak leaders accused each other over the Kashmir issue. India accuses Pakistan for sponsoring terror in Kashmir while as Pakistan raises the human rights violations in Kashmir and accused India for violating the human rights in Kashmir and urged the world community to launch an international investigation into the deteriorating situation in Kashmir. Due to these political developments the people in the state especially in valley were in utter disturbance and were under complete unending chaos and confusion due to the ongoing situation in the state.

While following all these developments on the Youm-e-Ashura in the morning time I had just came out of my house talking with a friend about the latest political developments in the state. Soon another friend joined, who told to get ready for a visit to Wularhama, a Shia dominated village falling in the vicinity of valley’s famous health resort in Pahalgam Tehsil to see the procession of 10th Muharram, 1441 Al Hijra. He also asked me to get another of my my friend along. Amid clampdown we all three drove on a a bike towards Wularhama by 11:15 AM.

We reached Wularhama village by 12:40 PM. The village lies on the east side on the either side of the Lidder canal. Here the people are mostly engaged with agriculture and the area is famous for walnuts and delicious apple production. The village was adorned with the photos of Shia religious scholars, flags and hoardings with revolutionary stanzas describing the valour of Imam Hussain (RA) against the falsehood in the battlefield of Karbala. Banners were installed on the roof tops and walls with quotations emphasising on the unity of Muslim Ummah. Despite certain restrictions on the Muharram procession by the state government, the district administration had made adequate arrangements for the Youm-e-Ashura as we saw a number of government officials mostly from the health department, Power development department (PDD), Public Health Engineering (PHE), fire and emergency services and several other officials from different departments were standing on the roadside for the smooth conduct of the Ashura procession. Although there was no presence of police force but the district administration had put certain restrictions on the Muharram procession in the area. In absence of police the people were determined to lead the procession. We asked few people about the time and venue of Muharram procession which was scheduled to start after Zuhar Prayers by 2:00 PM. It was too early and we decided to go to Yaner, a village near Pahalgam where we had ablution in the Lidder canal and offered Zuhar prayers. After prayers all of us were feeling hungry and we tasted apples and walnut to satisfy our bellies. It was a sunny and hot day and we sat along the Lidder canal for half an hour as sitting by the side of Lidder canal we got mesmerized by listening to its flow.

Soon after we left Yaner and straight way went to Wularhama. Here we saw a number of people from Shia community, men and women, dressed in black clothes as a mark of mourning in the loving memory of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). A blood donation camp was also orgainsed in the village by the health department in which fifty six volunteers donated their blood as a mark of respect to the supreme sacrifice of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA). We talked to few children who were carrying flags and had assembled at the Khamnaie Chowk, Sofi Pora. One of my friends shook hands and hugged all those beautiful and innocent children. Later few more friends from our home town also came in a car to see the procession of Youm-e-Ashura. Soon hundreds of people joined the Muharram procession. In the procession one among them was carrying the Flag (Alam). The procession started from the main market of the village, shouting loudly in chorus “Karbala Kis Karwanas Peth Salam, Karbala Kis Navjawanas Peth Salam”. The procession stopped at the Khamnaie Chowk, Sofi Pora, where an elderly man announced that the procession will again start after half an hour by 2:30 PM and till then they adorned the horse and Flag (Alam) to lead the final procession.

At several places along the roadside, the volunteers from the Shia community were offering cold drinks to the mourners and other pedestrians. Here like us a number of people had come from several nearby villages to see the procession of 10th Muharram. Among them was a photo journalist from Seer, Hamdan working with the China based Xinhua news agency who used to come here every year on the 10th Muharram and had donated blood in the blood donation camp organized by the Shai community in collaboration with the health department. We discussed a range of issues with him confronting the place. We also talked about some global issues. As we were talking with each other, the procession again started shouting loudly in chorus “Ya Hussain, Ya Hussain”, carrying the Flag (Alam). We left the discussion half way. As all the people in the procession got ecstatic in the state of mourning, beating their chests and heads, blood oozing from their body parts. As the time passed we saw more people dressed in black coming to the Khamnaie Chowk, and joined the procession. I felt very emotional to see all this. Soon the procession started moving towards the Imam Bada, beating their chests and shouting loudly in chorus. By 3:30 PM as the procession moved ahead towards Imam Bada, we also followed the procession as it reached the main market. I asked my friends to leave. Although it was my first ever visit to the village to have seen the 10th Muharram procession of the Shia community and the way of their Tazia (mourning) but it was a new and firsthand experience to see all this in my life.

Soon after we drove on the bike, back home.

Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie is a writer and Poet. He has done Ph.D from the Pondicherry Central University