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JKPC President Sajad Lone Urges Govt to Release Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Anees Zargar |
Lone urged the authorities to consider Farooq's release while highlighting moderate credentials of the jailed separatist leader.
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Representational use only.Image Courtesy:Wikipedia

Srinagar: Sajad Lone, Senior politician and president of Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference (JKPC), on Thursday urged the government to release incarcerated Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Lone called him a "moderate" in the situation.

In a statement, the former minister in the erstwhile state of J&K urged the authorities to consider Farooq's release while highlighting moderate credentials of the jailed separatist leader.

"Spare a thought for Mirwaiz Kashmir. He is under continued detention for the last four years. And none of us has talked about him. My apologies. We may differ politically but he inspires us as a religious head. A religious head who spearheaded the forces of moderation," Lone said.

"Mirwaiz Kashmir has stuck to utterances which are moderate and represent the true essence of Islam. He has religious duties. His continued incarceration is a crime against him and against all those whom he inspires at a religious level," Lone said in the statement, which he also tweeted.

Farooq, the chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), also holds a key religious post of Mirwaiz – a position limited to Kashmir region – leading sermons in the valley's central mosque, Jamia Masjid in Srinagar. He is also head of various other religious forums and groups, including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU) Jammu and Kashmir, a conglomerate of over 30 religious, social and educational associations.

Farooq has been termed as "moderate" for years against the hardliners late Syed Ali Geelani and Masarat Alam Bhat – both from the other faction of the Hurriyat Conference. He was arrested along with most of the political leadership of the region in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in August 2019. While most, including Sajad Lone, were released within a year, Farooq has since remained detained at his Nigeen residence in Srinagar.

"Humble appeal to Amit Shah sahib and Manoj Sinha sahib to please ensure that he is released as soon as possible. He has himself been a victim of violence. Let it be known. There are many wars in Kashmir. And in our real war he is an unapologetic moderate," Lone said.

Farooq succeeded his father, Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq as the head priest after the latter was assassinated by unknown assailants at his home on May 21, 1990 at the peak of insurgency. This is why Lone, a former Hurriyat activist, called him a "victim of violence". Incidentally, Lone's father, Abdul Gani Lone, the founder of JKPC and one of the co-founders of APHC, was also assassinated by suspected militants during a commemoration program of the late Mirwaiz in 2002.

The APHC in a statement said that its chairman completed three years of continuous house detention, terming it an arbitrary, despotic and extra-judicial act of the authorities. The group said that all channels of communication are blocked to him, and all outreach to people, friends and party cadres remain "barred".

"It seems our chairman is being punished for pleading the cause of resolution of the lingering Kashmir conflict through peaceful means of dialogue and deliberations and good neighbourly relations in the subcontinent. As Hurriyat, we have not only advocated this stand since our formation, but have actively supported and proactively participated in all initiatives taken in this direction as we firmly believe in this approach and outlook," the APHC said.

The APHC added that jailing Kashmiri political leadership, cadres, activists, journalists and people from different walks of life across India, and using all forms of "repressive" measures to "quell dissent or resistance" is a "despotic" approach to problem-solving and "futile" in the long term, as has been observed in other conflicted regions.

The statement comes a day after the MMU held an emergency meeting of the Shia-Sunni Coordination Alliance at the office of the Central Jamia Masjid Srinagar in the wake of the ongoing holy days of Ashura.

During the meeting, prominent social and religious leaders condemned the years of what they termed as "illegal and arbitrary detention" of Mirwaiz, the founder and patron of the MMU.

"The members appealed to the international community and the Muslim World to fulfil their responsibilities to immediately end the continued detention of Mirwaiz-e-Kashmir and ensure his release so he can discharge his official responsibilities towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir," a spokesperson from the Mirwaiz Manzil said.

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