Kashmir’s Shia students speak out against the loss of state autonomy

This Muharram was quiet and downcast for the Shias of Kashmir, where processions to mark the occasion of the tenth day of the holiday, known as Ashura, were restricted by authorities. 

In Delhi, though, Kashmiri Shias joined others in visiting the Shah-e-Mardan shrine in South Delhi’s Jor Bagh area. With almost no communication with their families in Kashmir for around 40 days, the Shia student community of Kashmir compared this Muharram to the oppression that led to the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in the Battle of Karbala in Iraq in 680 CE.

Sabia, a student of clinical psychology, was angry that a central expression of the Shia faith was suppressed in the valley after the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which ended the autonomy of Kashmir. “For Shias, taking out processions is very important for expressing our love towards Imam Hussein as well as for spreading his word. Muharram cannot be celebrated inside homes like Eid can be,” she said, and recalled how Muharram was observed in Kashmir until recently. 

The position of Shias as a minority within the Sunni majority Muslim community of Kashmir has led to the students’ voices being ignored in Kashmir’s struggle for independence.

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