Srinagar: The authorities in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have finally ended the restrictions on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was detained at his residence since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
In nearly two years, Mirwaiz is the first senior Hurriyat leader in the region to be free from curbs. This appears to be the first step to allay the heat around the separatist camp since the Article 370 move by the central government that led to mass detention of separatist leaders, political workers and the mainstream politicians including three former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the release of Mirwaiz, the chairman of All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), while urging the authorities to release other prisoners from Kashmir.
“Good to hear about Mirwaiz’s release from arbitrary detention. I hope that hundreds of Kashmiri men languishing in jails in & outside J&K will also be released soon. Its time they returned home to their families,” Mehbooba tweeted.
According to official sources, the restrictions around the 47-year-old head cleric have been eased. Mirwaiz, according to them, was permitted to attend a meeting of Majlis-e-Ulema, an organisation of prominent religious groups in Kashmir, on Wednesday but later he could not attend the meeting.
Following the meeting, held at Srinagar’s Mirwaiz Manzil and attended by representatives of social and educational institutions and the trader fraternity, the members claimed that Mirwaiz was not being allowed to move out of his residence. The organisation urged the authorities to release the Hurriyat leader from his detention to “honour” the claims about his release.
“The pulpits of the largest religious and spiritual centre of Jammu & Kashmir – Jama Masjid Srinagar – has fallen silent for the last 82 Fridays... this greatly hurts the sentiments of the Muslims, the masses and religious scholars alike,” the APHC spokesperson said.
Mirwaiz, however, is expected to attend prayers at Jama Masjid next Friday.
His release comes days after recent talks between Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan. The DGMOs—in what was seen as a moment of thaw amidst the hostilities between two neighbours – decided to “strictly observe” the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), which had witnessed escalation since the abrogation of Article 370.
Many saw the DGMO talks as an ice-breaker and a move that could further ease tension in the region. The release of Mirwaiz is also seen as part of this relief with more releases expected in near future.
The talks were welcomed by the APHC and a party insider also expected that the two governments will build up on the fresh developments. “There is a regime change in the United States and we are seeing the DGMO talks and expected release of prisoners in that backdrop, hoping that more such measures are taken that will benefit the people in Kashmir,” the party insider said wishing anonymity.
A senior security official told NewsClick that there will be “more room” for politics in Kashmir in coming days, which was made difficult due to the curbs imposed by the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre through the UT administration. “With fresh developments, the political activities are expected to increase,” the official said.
Mirwaiz Umar, who is listed as one of the most influential Muslims globally, has held the Mirwaiz title since the age of 17 after his father and predecessor Mirwaiz Farooq was assassinated by unknown gunmen on May 21, 1990. Since then, he has grown as one of the key political actors demanding resolution to the Kashmir dispute and has held talks with the governments of both India and Pakistan regarding the issue. Mirwaiz and most of the Hurriyat camp, however, maintains the priority of a larger resolution against the issue of abrogation of Article 370.