Photo courtesy: Syed Shahriyar
The execution of a top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on 2 January has provoked a backlash against the Saudi government, ripples of which were also felt in India as Shia Muslims across the country staged demonstrations against the kingdom.
Protesters took to the streets in Kashmir, Delhi, Lucknow, among others, to pay their respects to the beheaded religious leader and to condemn the actions of Saudi Arabia.
In Delhi, hundreds of protesters were stopped by police en-route to the Saudi embassy in Vasant Vihar. Some of the protesters tried to cross the police barricades. They raised slogans of "death to Saudi" and "long live Nimr".
In Lucknow, various condolence meetings were held in the city for Nimr and many protests and candlelight marches took place in various parts of the city.
Dr Kalbe Sadiq, vice president, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, condemned Saudi Arabia's execution of Sheikh Nimr despite international calls on Riyadh to revoke the death verdict. In his speech, he reiterated the words of Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami: "The execution is in line with a litany of crimes committed by the Al Saud regime from the onset of its creation."
Another protest was led by Maulana Kalbe Jawad, who took out a march in the old city. Jawad appealed to both Sunnis and Shias to boycott Saudi Arabia, alleging that it is a nursery of terrorism. He further expressed his resentment against the Saudis by writing a letter of condemnation to the United Nations.
Photo courtesy: Haidery Educational Society
Jawad described Sheikh Nimr as martyr and that his execution proves that the Saudi monarchy cannot tolerate any dissent. "The killings are not only un-Islamic but will also have serious consequences and eventually bring about the end of the Saudi kingdom," he said.
A peaceful candle march was led by the Haidery Educational and Welfare Society and by the students of Unity College in old Lucknow. It was joined by thousands of people.
Photo courtesy: Unity College
In Hyderabad, local activists with other Shia organisations, including women and children, staged a protest sit-in on Sunday against the execution of the Shia cleric. They shouted slogans against the Al-Saud regime, and displayed their banners and placards outside the Hyderabad Press Club.
Meanwhile in Kashmir, the authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions in parts of Srinagar after the plans of a protest against Saudi Arabia came to light. The restrictions came a day after the Shia community came out on the streets and raised pro-Nimr and anti-Saudi slogans. Police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the protesters.
Photo courtesy: Syed Shahriyar
Protests also erupted in Kargil. Briefing the media, Sheikh Hussain Lutfi, chairman of the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust, called for three days of mourning, complete shutdown and protests in Kargil. He said, "We strongly condemn this [cowardly] act of Saudi Arabia."
Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-kingdom protests that erupted in Qatif in the Eastern Province of the Arab state in 2011. Nimr called for elections and criticised the marginalisation of the Shia minority in a Sunni majority country. He was arrested on charges of terrorism and anti-state activities.
His death sentence was confirmed in October 2014, with his family saying he had been found guilty of, among other charges, seeking "foreign meddling" in the kingdom. Nimr's supporters say he advocated only peaceful demonstrations and eschewed all violent opposition to the government. He was executed along with 46 other people.
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