Jamia Masjid Remains Locked For Record 18th Friday

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A view of locked historic Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar on Friday.

SRINAGAR – No congregational prayers were offered at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid for the 18th consecutive Friday since the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370 provisions on August 5 the longest curb on the grand mosque of Kashmir in the recent memory, officials said.

“The restrictions on the prayers are still in place and we have not been allowed to offer prayers at the Jamia Masjid,” said an official of the Jamia Masjid Auqaf — the managing committee of the mosque.

He said police locked the main gates of the grand mosque and did not allow the congregational prayers or even purification of the Jamia Masjid.

This is for the first time in the recent memory, after the eruption of militancy in the Kashmir Valley, that no congregational prayers have been offered at the mosque for 18 consecutive Fridays because of the curbs by the authorities.

During the 2016 unrest — following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani — the mosque was locked for about four months and no congregational prayers were offered there for 16 consecutive Fridays.

“However, this time, the mosque has been locked for 18 consecutive Fridays, which is more than the number of times it was locked in 2016. Also, in 2016, Fajar (morning) and Isha (night) prayers were allowed at the mosque, but this time, no prayers have been allowed,” the official said.

The authorities sealed the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area in downtown (Old City) Srinagar as strict restrictions were imposed across the valley on the morning of August 5, hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 and to divide Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

While the restrictions were gradually eased and prayers were allowed at other big mosques and shrines across the valley, the Jamia Masjid continued to remain locked.

Apprehending that vested interests might exploit the large gatherings at the grand mosque to fuel protests, the authorities sealed the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area in downtown (Old City) Srinagar as strict restrictions were imposed across the valley on the morning of August 5, hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 and to divide Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

While the restrictions were gradually eased and prayers were allowed at other big mosques and shrines across the valley, the Jamia Masjid continued to remain locked.

The people have criticized the continuous curbs on prayers at the grand mosque, saying it was an “attack” on their religious freedom.

“They (authorities) have surpassed the previous records of curbs on the mosque. Never in the recent history of Kashmir have we seen curbs on the mosque for such a long time. This is an attack on our religious freedom,” Umar Nazir, a resident of downtown area of the city, said.

Another local, Parvez Ganai, said the continued locking up of the mosque “berated the government’s claims of return of normalcy” in the valley.

“If there is normalcy, why not open the Jamia Masjid for prayers then? Why keep people away from it,” Ganai said.

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