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J&K: ‘Free’ Mirwaiz Umar Stopped From Leading Friday Prayers at Jamia Masjid Again

Anees Zargar |
Even as the Lt. Gov. Sinha denied his detention last week, the cleric was stopped by J&K police inside his residence when he tried to leave to deliver a sermon.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir’s head cleric and head of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was on Friday barred from offering prayers at the valley’s central mosque, Jamia Masjid, a week after Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha claimed he was not detained at his residence. 

Mirwaiz was stopped by J&K police personnel inside his residence while he attempted to leave his home at Nigeen locality in Srinagar to deliver a sermon at Jamia Mosque. The press present at the far end of the road were also stopped and not allowed to meet the leader.

The body that oversees the mosque -- Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid  -- in a statement issued on Friday expressed “strong disdain” against the authorities for disallowing its chairman to address the devotees present at the historic mosque.

The Anjuman termed it “strange” stating that the people were unable to understand the statement of Lieutenant Governor Sinha who, in an interview with foreign media last week, claimed that Mirwaiz was neither under detention nor were there any restrictions on him.

“Earlier, Home Minister of India Mr Amit Shah also made similar statements twice in Parliament. However, on ground these claims are far from reality as was once again proved today when the Miwaiz was forcibly stopped at his gate. The fact that Mirwaiz-e-Kashmir is being kept under continued detention is extremely sad and condemnable,” the Anjuman said in a statement. 

The leader of separatist party APHC, Mirwaiz was put under house arrest ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A on August 5, 2019. Last week, Lt. Governor Sinha, however, in an interview to an international news organisation not only claimed that Mirwaiz was a free man but also said that he was actually being guarded by forces for security concerns -- a claim that was vehemently opposed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and his supporters.

While he was being stopped near his residence on Friday, Mirwaiz told the policemen that he was only leaving in the wake of the statement from Lt Governor, the highest authority in the region.

“It is not a statement from the police or a bureaucrat. LG has given this statement with full responsibility. You should not stop me from performing my religious duties. You have violated human rights and are now violating my religious rights,” Mirwaiz reportedly told the officials.

Mirwaiz, who has been incarcerated since the past three years, said he was also not allowed to attend the last rites of his grandmother and his uncle who died during this time period.

“You have been saying that the situation is getting better and people are happy (in Kashmir). Why don’t you allow me to join people in their happiness,” he added.

LG Sinha’s comments were also questioned by Mirwaiz’s mainstream political opponents, including former chief ministers of the erstwhile state, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mehbooba, termed it a “bald faced lie." 

The Hurriyat chairman’s supporters had, however, pinned their hopes on today’s Friday congregation, hoping that Mirwaiz would be allowed to participate in the congregation. Many had assembled outside the mosque in Nowhatta area of old Downtown Srinagar.

The Anjuman in a statement earlier said they had made all “preparations” for the Friday sermon which they expected would be led by Miwaiz as many of his supporters were looking forward to seeing and hearing him. Scores of them during the Friday prayers protested against the cleric’s detention holding placards that read -- "Stop Telling Lies, Release Mirwaiz".

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