Srinagar: The authorities in Kashmir barred people from offering the mandatory congregational prayers here at the historic Jamia Masjid for the 12th consecutive Friday.
While denying religious rights, the administration sealed all gates of the masjid with concertina wires. A large number of paramilitary forces including Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) were deployed in and around the historic mosque to prevent assembly of people.
The Jamia Masjid is located at Nowhatta area of Srinagar City and has been closed for prayers since August 5 after the BJP led government abrogated the special status of the state.
The mosque was constructed by Sultan Sikandar, father of Zainul Aabideen, popularly known as Budshah, between 1389-1420.
According to locals, amid fresh restrictions, the authorities yet again didn’t allow them to offer Friday prayers.
“Just four people were allowed to clean the mosque premises yesterday after two months and the local police were guarding outside,” said a resident.
Official sources said that restrictions under section 144 CrpC remained imposed in some areas in downtown and other parts of Srinagar since early Friday to prevent protests after Friday prayers.
However, the situation was entirely different on the ground, as all gates leading to Jamia Masjid remained closed and people were not allowed to enter the historic mosque.
Roads leading to Jamia Masjid were open for vehicular and pedestrian movement. However, security forces had put barbed wires on the roadside so that the road could be closed immediately in case of any protest.
“It’s twelve consecutive Fridays that people weren’t allowed to offer prayers inside the mosque. In the name of law and order, we are being denied the basic rights of practising our religion,” said a resident of Nowhatta.
The area is known for Anti-India protests and usually witnesses clashes between government forces and the protesters much like Masjid Al-Aqsa of Palestine.
It’s also a bastion of top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who delivers sermons on every Friday in the mosque.
Pertinently, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continues to remain under house arrest along with other separatists leaders. Many have been booked under the draconian law Public Safety Act (PSA).
“This is very unfortunate that we are forcefully stopped from offering prayers at the Jamia Masjid,” said another resident, adding that their religious rights are “under assault”.
Silence of Muslims
He further said Muslims of India and other countries have failed to speak against this brutality and barbarism.
“Shame for those who call themselves Muslims, we couldn’t see a single statement from the Muslims of India condemning the ongoing slaught of religious rights in Kashmir,” he said.
Historians believe that the practice to disallow prayers at Jamia Masjid began in 1819. “It happened during the time of the then Maharaja Ranjit Singh when the then Governor Moti Ram curbed prayers at the masjid,” said Professor Abdul Gani.
The masjid was also sealed during the mass uprising of 2008, 2010, 2016 and now in 2019.
A large number of youth, who live in and around the mosque have been arrested and booked under PSA. According to locals, many have been shifted to Tihar, Agra and other jails.
Similarly, other major masjids in different parts of the valley were also closed for worshippers. But, reports of the offering of Friday prayers came from smaller local mosques in the valley.
A top police official said they are just implementing the orders of government.
“If the Deputy Commissioner feels that there can be law and order situation in the area, then restrictions are being imposed,” he said wishing not to be named.
Meanwhile, uncertainty across Kashmir continues for the 80th straight day with all the shops and other business establishments remained closed. The pre-paid mobile and internet services continued to remain suspended across the Kashmir Valley.