'Not an Era of War', Says Mirwaiz Umar After Release from House Detention
Srinagar: Kashmir’s top cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was released from his house detention on Friday following which he delivered a sermon at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid for the first time in the last four years.
Mirwaiz Umar, who is also the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), reached the valley’s central mosque ahead of the Friday congregational prayers amidst thousands of Muslim worshippers. The devotees greeted Mirwaiz with emotionally charged chants and showered rose petals and candies to welcome him.
Mirwaiz said he was informed about his release by the police officials at his residence on Thursday. “It is a very emotional moment for me. I thank almighty Allah that he made it possible and once again today I am in Jamia among you,” he said.
During his address, the Hurriyat leader advocated for dialogue and reconciliation as he requested the people, especially the youths, to be patient and have faith in the wake of the difficult situation in the region. Mirwaiz said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rightly said, in the backdrop of the Ukraine war, that this is not the era of war.
“We have always believed and participated in efforts of resolution through an alternative to violent means which is dialogue and reconciliation. We have personally suffered for pursuing this route. We are not so-called separatists or peace disrupters but realist resolution seekers,” he said.
The leader was put under house detention on August 5, 2019, a day before the authorities revoked Articles 370 and 35A in the region and downsized the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Since then, locals, members of civil society and mainstream political leadership had been demanding his release so that he could perform his religious duties as a Mirwaiz.
The leader said that he was “aware” that the developments in the aftermath of the abrogation have not been easy on the people. “There have been assaults on our identity. The abrogation of 370 and 35A, the downgrading of J&K into a union territory, the dismemberment of Ladakh post that new laws and diktats being imposed incessantly through the reorganization Act, unfortunately, are harsh unilateral decisions of disempowerment,” he said.
He, however, added that it is incumbent upon the Mirwaiz to convey the truth to power and to people and play his role in the interest of people and peace. “History is witness to the fact that the Mirwaiz has always propagated dialogue and accord, even at the cost of personal loss and suffering,” he added.
He argued that the APHC has always believed that a part of J&K is in India, a part with Pakistan and some part with China too making the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in August 1947 and its people divided. Therefore, this is an issue which has to be addressed and resolved, he said.
“This is a fact the international community has ratified...This is a human problem for us the people of Jammu and Kashmir, not a territorial tug of war. We also want to move beyond it,” he said.
The Mirwaiz also advocated the return of Kashmiri Pandits and disapproved of making this human issue a political one. He also urged the authorities to release the jailed youth including journalists, activists and traders.
The release of Mirwaiz comes after the authorities released two other prominent religious preachers Moulana Dawoodi and Moulana Mushtaq Veeri from jail. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had last Friday issued a notice to the UT administration seeking its response to a petition filed on behalf of Mirwaiz, against his house arrest. The Lt Governor-led administration had several times claimed that the leader was not detained, a claim that was refuted by Mirwaiz’s associates vehemently.
His release was widely welcomed by many including the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
“I welcome the step taken by the administration in J&K to release Mirwaiz Umar Farooq from house arrest. I hope that they allow him to move freely, interact with people & resume his social/religious responsibilities. Today eyes in Kashmir will be on the Mirwaiz as he delivers his first Friday sermon in Jamia Masjid after 2019,” National Conference’s Omar Abdullah wrote on X.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader M Y Tarigami said that the release of Mirwaiz Umar from what he termed as “illegal confinement” is a “welcome” step.
“Mirwaiz is a well-respected and influential religious leader. Difference of opinion is an important ingredient of democracy. It should not be used as an excuse to curtail the fundamental rights of people. Hope the government respects different shades of opinions, including the media,” Tarigami said.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, however, slammed the authorities as she pointed to a competition between local leadership over the release.
“Finally, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq will walk a free man after years of LG admin’s denial about his detention. As a religious head, he is held in high regard by Muslims across J&K. Unfortunate that a tussle has already begun between BJP’s various political outfits to claim credit for his release,” Mufti wrote on X.
Mufti’s remarks came in the backdrop of a statement from regional Wakf board chairman Darakshan Andrabi who also shared a picture of her with Mirwaiz. The Hurriyat Conference, however, clarified that the picture was not recent.
“The below-mentioned picture is from July 2022, when Darakhshan Andrabi had visited the Mirwaiz in connection with the construction near the Mazaar-e-Shuhada in Eidgah which he had vehemently opposed. It is not from today,” the party said in a statement.
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