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Pro-freedom Kashmiri leader leads Friday prayer at historic mosque 1st time in 4 years

Pro-freedom Kashmiri leader leads Friday prayer at historic mosque 1st time in 4 years

 
- Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had been under house detention since Aug. 5, 2019 when India scrapped region’s autonomy
 

By Hilal Mir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Dozens of people broke down when Kashmiri pro-freedom and religious leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq ascended the pulpit of the medieval Jamia Masjid in Srinagar to deliver his first Friday sermon as a free man after four years of house detention.

The 50-year-old Farooq also sobbed as he greeted the people from the pulpit of the historical mosque in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Scores of people lined up at the mosque's entrance to greet him as he entered holding garlands. Women and men tossed almonds and candy at Mirwaiz while shouting pro-Islam and pro-Mirwaiz slogans.

The mosque's management told the media that Thursday night a few officials from the administration, which is run directly from the Indian capital New Delhi, informed them that Farooq could lead prayers at the mosque, which has been central to Kashmir's politics and which has the largest gatherings on Fridays and other important Muslims' religious occasions like Eid and Lailat-ul-Qadr.

Since the Mirwaiz (literally, the chief sermonizer) was also the chairman of a faction of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomeration of several smaller pro-freedom parties, the mosque had, by default, become an important center for pro-freedom politics.

The nearby Nowhatta neighborhood was the epicenter of Friday protests that often turned into clashes between stone-throwing pro-freedom protesters and police.

However, since Aug. 5, 2019, when the Hindu nationalist Indian government scrapped the region's autonomy, no Friday or other important prayers, have been allowed at the mosque.

Before and after Aug. 5, 2019, tens of hundreds of people, including nearly the entire pro-freedom leadership, were jailed. Although Mirwaiz was spared jail, he has been under house detention for the most extended period, only behind the deceased Syed Ali Geelani, the 89-year-old Hurriyat leader who died in house detention in Sept. 2021.

Mirwaiz’s release came days after the government released Moulana Mushtaq Veeri and Moulana Dawoodi, two prominent religious leaders, from detention under the draconian Public Safety Act, which allows for detention without trial for up to six months.

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