Srinagar: For the first time since August 5 when Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status, namaz was offered at Srinagar’s Grand Mosque on Wednesday.
The police had locked the main entrance to the historic Jama Masjid located deep inside congested central Srinagar as part of the security lockdown enforced across J&K a night before abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state four and a half months ago.
No weekly congregation could be held in the Grand Mosque for the 19th Friday running on December 13.
Though the security restrictions were eased in central Srinagar a few weeks ago and subsequently the police siege around the Grand Mosque was lifted too, the people were showing reluctance in entering the premises. Also, the mosque management Anjuman Awquaf-e-Jama Masjid had reportedly refused to organise prayers until and unless Kashmir’s chief Muslim cleric and chairman of his faction of separatist Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was released from house arrest.
Mirwaiz who traditionally delivers sermon and customary pre-namaz speech from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque on Fridays is among several hundred Kashmiri separatist and mainstream politicians and activists placed under house arrest or jailed around after August 5.
However, Mirwaiz’s aide Syed-ur-Rehman Shams said that resuming namaz at Jama Masjid had not been made conditional to his release but to the police’s lifting siege around the place of worship.
“We were demanding that the siege of the mosque must be lifted by withdrawing police and other security forces from the premises. After this was done we offered Duhar (midday) and Asar (late afternoon) namaz in the mosque and, hopefully, we would be offering also Friday prayers day there after tomorrow,” he said.
He regretted that the authorities locked the historic mosque for such a long period and did not allow the devotees to hold weekly congregations for as many as 19 Fridays. “This was but unwarranted interference in our religious matters,” a spokesman of the Auquaf had said earlier....