Mirwaiz delivers Friday sermon after 4 years; calls for dialogue, reconciliation

TNN Bureau. Updated: 9/23/2023 1:08:04 AM Front Page

Political parties welcome release from house arrest

Srinagar: Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was released from house arrest and offered congregational prayers here on Friday, four years after he was taken into detention in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
Soon after his release, the Kashmir valley's head priest headed to the historic Jamia Masjid in the Nowhatta area of the city to offer the Friday congregational prayers after he missed them for 212 weeks.
Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid -- the management committee of the mosque said in the morning that senior police officials visited the Mirwaiz's residence on Thursday to inform him that the authorities have decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers.
The release of the separatist leader, who heads various religious organisations, comes days after he moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The court, on September 15, gave four weeks' time to the J-K administration to file its response to the Mirwaiz's petition.
The Hurriyat leader was put under house arrest at his Nigeen residence on August 5, 2019 -- the day the BJP-led Centre abrogated the provisions of Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories.
On Friday, the Mirwaiz left his residence in a cavalcade to reach Jamia Masjid at around 1 pm his first public appearance in four years.
A huge crowd, including women, gathered at the grand mosque to welcome the Mirwaiz. His supporters garlanded him and showered him with sweets and almonds.
The rousing reception moved Mirwaiz to tears as he entered the mosque.
A few minutes after his arrival, he delivered the Friday sermon where he touched upon various religious issues. During the sermon, the Hurriyat chief got emotional several times and was seen wiping the tears from his face.
At the end of his sermon, he touched the Kashmir issue, calling for the resolution of the issue through dialogue and peaceful means.
"This can be a geographical issue for some, but it is foremost a human issue for the people of J-K. We have to rise above the considerations of geography or area and understand the human values and relationships and then move forward towards the resolution of the issues," he said.
He endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks about Ukraine that this was not an era of war.
The Mirwaiz said he has been called anti-national and separatist for advocating peace.
He said the phase after the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370 has not been easy for the people of J-K as many new laws have been implemented in the UT unilaterally to "weaken" the people.
Advocating for the return of Kashmiri Pandits, the Mirwaiz said the people of Kashmir believe in peaceful coexistence between communities and nations.
"We have always invited our Pandit brothers to return to the valley. We have always disapproved of making it as a political issue. It is a human issue," he said.
After the Mirwaiz's sermon, the prayers culminated smoothly and remained incident-free.
Meanwhile, political parties have welcomed the Mirwaiz's release.
Former J-K chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said it was better late than never.
"First of all we welcome this step by the government. Better late than never. He should not have been kept under house arrest for so long," Abdullah told reporters.
Another former chief minister and People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said the Centre has corrected its mistakes which it committed in 2019 by arresting religious leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.
She, however, said there is a race among BJP leaders and its friendly parties to take credit for the release of the Mirwaiz.
Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari expressed hope that the Mirwaiz will play his role to shape the society in a positive way for a better and peaceful tomorrow.
"I want to place on record thanks to the Hon'ble Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah ji @AmitShah and LG Manoj Sinha ji @manojsinha_ for the decision to allow Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to lead Friday prayers at historic Jamia Masjid. Hope Mirwaiz Sahab will play his role to shape the society in a positive way for a better and peaceful tomorrow," Bukhari said in a post on X.
Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) chief Ghulam Nabi Azad said it was a welcome step.
"After 4 years of house arrest, it's heartening to hear that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq will be allowed to offer Friday prayers at Srinagar's Jamia Masjid... This is a positive move towards reconciliation and unity!" he said on X.
BJP leader and Waqf Board chairperson Darakshan Andrabi said religious leaders were pride of J-K, and the Mirwaiz has an important role in the society.
"It is a welcome step. Our religious leaders are the pride of J-K. Mirwaiz has an important role in the society," she said.
Welcoming the release of the Mirwaiz, Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Lone said, "It is a joyous day for all of us to hopefully see him leading the prayers. He symbolises a tradition which is primarily religious in nature but also strong societal connotations," Lone said.

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