SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir

Several Kashmiris were injured on Saturday when Indian police dispersed a procession with disproportionate force, eye witnesses said.

Nazir Ahmad, an eye witness, said hundreds of mourners were marching near the Hamadania Colony on the outskirts of the capital Srinagar as part of the procession to mark the martyrdom of Iman Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

“But some youths shouted pro-freedom slogans. Police charged at us with teargas and pellets.

“Many were injured and some taken to hospital,” he said.

Six of the mourners with pellet injuries were brought to the city’s largest Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, Dr Nazir Choudhary, medical superintendent of the hospital, told Anadolu Agency.

“Three have pellet injuries in the eye. Doctors are assessing the severity of their injuries,” he said.

Prominent Shia leader Imran Reza Ansari tweeted: “Want to ask the Jammu and Kashmir Admin if permission was granted for peaceful procession with Covid-19 SOPs why were the mourners of Imam Hussain beaten up brutally.”

He also tweeted a picture of an injured mourner on a hospital bed whose abdomen is covered with blood.

During the past week, police used baton or teargas canisters to disperse mourners in a few smaller processions in various parts of Srinagar, eyewitnesses said.

On Thursday, a police spokesman said three men were booked under an anti-terror law after a video surfaced in which people were shouting pro-freedom slogans during a similar procession on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Pakistan in a statement on Saturday condemned the use of force on the mourners.

“Equally condemnable are the restrictions imposed on religious processions and gatherings during Muharram [the first month of the Islamic calendar],” said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Disputed region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions of its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state with its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.

Simultaneously, it locked the region down, detaining thousands of people, imposing movement restrictions, and enforcing a communications blackout.

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