Kashmiri separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq will lead the Friday prayers at Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid after his release from four-year house arrest today. Mirwaiz, chief priest of Jamia Masjid, is the chairman of Hurriyat Conference, a grouping of Kashmiri separatist factions.
Police officials visited him on Thursday and informed that he has been allowed to lead the Friday prayers, Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid said in a statement.
“Yes, he (Mirwaiz) is going to Jamia Majid today,” said an officer.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, both former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, are among political leaders and groups who have welcomed his release.
Congratulations to respected BrotherSahib. It is soothing to see you after a highly appreciable decision by the Administration. Religious scholars belong to all & no group or political party has a copyright for any religious personality. I hope, this time…
— Dr Darakhshan Andrabi (@drdarakhshan)
BJP’s national executive member Darakhshan Andrabi, who visited Mirwaiz a day before his release, congratulated him and said “no political party has a copyright for any religious personality”. She is also the chairperson of J&K Waqf Board which has a Minister of State (MoS) status in the Union Territory.
Mirwaiz was put under house arrest on August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, and stripped the region of its statehood.
Thousands of other political leaders and workers were also detained and jailed as part of a massive clampdown in wake of the 2019 move.
Jamia Masjid, the biggest cultural and religious centre in the Valley, was also closed. It reopened for regular prayers only in February, 2022. But Mirwaiz remained under house arrest and was not allowed to lead prayers at the mosque.
Mirwaiz is considered as moderate separatist voice who had engaged with the centre during Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments.
The decision to release him and lead Friday prayers indicates a softening approach by the centre following a heavy clampdown on Kashmiri separatists and critics of government decision since 2019.
Recently, two religious clerics jailed for fuelling separatism were released and welcomed by the local BJP leaders in Kashmir.
Jamia Masjid has seen a big drop in visitors since it reopened after a long closure in 2022. It can accommodate around 50,000 people with additional space in its lawns and nearby areas during religious congregations.