Thousands of Shia Muslims took out the "Ashura march" on Thursday, which has been banned in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1990. It was the first time since the ban was imposed decades ago that Shias held a major religious ceremony allowed in the troubled region.
The month of Muharram in the Islamic calendar is a holy time for Muslims around the world, especially Shias, commemorating the seventh-century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein.
The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced four years ago that security had improved in the region after decades of unrest.
Authorities and clerics negotiated with the government and asked for permission to continue the march. Following the approved permission, the demonstrations ended without any problems.
"This is a dividend of peace," Mohammad Aijaz, the city's top administrator, told reporters. This year's march was the largest gathering.
Although marches have not been allowed in Kashmir since 1990, some small groups have gathered in Muharram. However, they usually ended in violence and slogans of independence were shouted. Government authorities responded to the mourning march that turned into a protest by firing tear gas and pellets.
Authorities allowed the march on condition that mourners did not use "anti-national slogans or propaganda" or make any reference to rebel groups and "banned organizations."
Tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed since the uprising against Indian rule began in 1989 in Kashmir, which Pakistan also claims.
Rebel groups are trying to make the region independent or annexed to Pakistan. India maintains at least half a million troops around Kashmir to counter the insurgency.
In 2019, Indian tourists have flocked to the region since the Modi government revoked the region's constitutional guarantee of limited powers. The city has seen a boom.
The city hosted a G20 meeting in May ahead of a summit of world leaders in New Delhi in September. But protesters took to the streets during the summit.
Protesters say civil liberties are still not guaranteed to quell unrest, despite the relative easing of other restrictions.
The region's top cleric has been under house arrest since 2019, and prayers at Srinagar's main mosque remain subject to restrictions on the size of the congregation.
Mansoor Abbas Ansari, a Shia leader and one of the organizers of Thursday's procession, demanded the release of detained religious leaders and called for an end to the capping of congregations at prayer services.
"Only then will the government's claims of peace be proved," he told reporters.
Shia Muslims are a minority in predominantly Sunni Kashmir, but officials say they make up at least 10 percent of the region's population of about 14 million.
Source: The New Arab