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Muharram Flags annoy troopers in Kashmir

Jan 26, 2006:

Srinagar:- The black flags and banners hoisted to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (A.S) are annoying the Indian para-military troopers at many places in Kashmir.

The troopers are confusing the black flags with protest flags meant to observe India's Republic day as a 'Black Day' as called for by separatist and militant groups.

The days of Muharram especially the first 10 days are observed by Shi'te Muslims as days of mourning, to commemorate the Martyrdom of Imam Hussein (A.S), grand son of the Holy Prophet(PBUH) on 10th of Muharram.

An Indian paratrooper on a street in Srinagar

Separatist outfits annually call for observance of India's Republic Day as well as the Independence Day as a 'Black Day'. Unprecedented security measures mark the countdown to the two days causing grave inconvenience to local population.

This year, the Republic Day celebrated annually on Jan 26, falls in the first 10 days of Muharram, which commenced on Jan 20. Black coloured Muharram flags and banners hoisted on houses, vehicles and markets, can been seen across the Kashmir Valley especially in Shia dominated areas.

The reports of annoyed troopers have been pouring in from many places in the last couple of days.

Altaf Hussain, drives a passenger vehicle from Srinagar to Kupwara. Altaf says he was almost detained at a CRPF check post for hosting a small black flag on his vehicle, like he does every year.

"I had a tough time describing the meaning of black flag to them, otherwise I was sure to be booked" says Hussain.

"The clash of two calendars was the last thing one would expect," opines Khalid Sheikh a shopkeeper in Srinagar. "It is a time when the entire security situation is on full alert, so everything is scrutinized minutely, no matter if it is regarding religion".

In Pattan, just on the outskirts of summer capital Srinagar, the patrolling party of paratroopers recently chased and held two boys for holding black flags.

At various check points security personnel question drivers for longer durations for the only fault they have hoisted a black flag on their vehicles.


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