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Why the Indian state is now scared of the Kashmiri Shia

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On August 29, the 10th day of the holy month of Muharram, known as Ashoura, Indian forces fired pellets and tear gas shells to disperse hundreds of Shia Muslims participating in a traditional religious procession in Indian-administered Kashmir, seriously injuring dozens of people.

Security forces besieged Shia mourners in the Zadibal area of Srinagar, forcing them to seek shelter in residential compounds, as tear gas shells and pellets rained on them. I saw young boys hit with pellets writhing in pain on the ground, as dozens of others choked and coughed among thick clouds of tear gas, unable to help the injured or find a safe spot to catch their breath.

Officials later said at least 200 people were detained for participating in the Muharram processions, and at least seven were arrested under a draconian anti-terror law for raising anti-India slogans.

The Indian state's decision to clamp down on this year's Muharram procession with such force was a sign of its growing concerns over the support Kashmiri Shia started to show for the freedom and self-determination movement in the valley.

Indian authorities have long been pushing the narrative that Indian-administered Kashmir's Sunni-led pro-freedom movement is shunned by Shia and other minority communities in the region. In recent years, however, young Shia men and women became increasingly vocal about their demand for political rights, and many of them started to openly back the resistance against Indian rule in their homeland.

For decades, Shia in Kashmir have been commemorating Ashoura, the day that marks the death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein and his companions in Karbala, with processions. The main procession that traditionally took place in the Srinagar city centre covering 9 kilometres (5.6 miles), however, was banned in the early 1990s, when an armed rebellion against the Indian rule commenced.

Since then, Muharram processions........

© Al Jazeera

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