SRINAGAR • India imposed a curfew in several parts of the contested Kashmir region yesterday after clashes between security forces and Shi'ite Muslims taking part in a procession, officials and eyewitnesses said.
At least 12 locals and six troops were injured last Saturday evening, officials told Reuters, as worshippers on the traditional mourning procession of Muharram clashed with troops trying to stop it.
Troops used tear gas and pellet guns on the crowd, which insisted on proceeding with the procession - one in a series held at this time of the year - and pelted stones at security forces, said an Indian official who declined to be named.
"The clashes continued till late at night, during which the troops fired tear gas and pellets," he added.
A spokesman for India's Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
"Reasonable restrictions are necessary for peace and protection of life," India's national security adviser said last Saturday, accusing Islamabad of trying to stoke violence in the region.
Kashmir, a mountainous Muslim-majority region claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been the site of frequent altercations between security forces and locals protesting against New Delhi's Aug 5 decision to revoke special rights for the portion of the territory that it controls.
Recent clashes occurred in Rainawari and Badgam, two Shi'ite-majority areas of Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir's main city.
The 5km procession route that passes through the city centre has been barricaded by armed troops wearing helmets and bulletproof vests. Police vans fitted with loudspeakers yesterday announced curfew-like restrictions in Srinagar's city centre Lal Chowk and adjacent areas, according to two witnesses.
"People are advised to stay indoors and not venture out of their home," the police announced.
Mr Suhail Ahmed, a Rainawari resident, said there have been frequent clashes in the area over the last three to four days as troops have been trying to block the procession.
"We heard deafening sounds of tear gas being fired the last few evenings. We mostly stay indoors, but the gas comes into our homes, making it difficult to sleep," he said.
Muharram is the first month of the year according to the Muslim lunar calendar and traditionally, processions are held for the first 10 days of the month to observe the death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein, who was killed in battle in 680.
Shi'ite Muslims typically intensify their expression of suffering on the Ashura day, which on this year falls tomorrow.