The year 2021 witnessed the highest number of restrictions on Friday prayers at Jamia mosque in Srinagar. The mosque remained shut for at least 47 Fridays.
Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net
SRINAGAR — Maala Begum used multiple modes of transport, hoping to offer Friday prayers at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. She was pained to discover that the mosque was shut.
Begum, 62, waited for a few hours outside the gate thinking that the management of the mosque might open the gates for senior citizens.
She had to return.
The authorities have not allowed congregational Friday prayers at the 14th-century mosque since January 2021—except once.
This is the only major place of worship in the valley.
As other religious institutions are open and political rallies continue in full swing, devotees have rejected the government’s version that the mosque is shut because of Covid protocols. When the church is open, why is the mosque shut?” Ghulam Mohammad, a devotee from the Pampore area of South Kashmir’s Pampore, told Twocircles.net.
Moulana Ahmad Sayeed Naqshbandi, Imam Hai of Jamia Masjid wondered what the government’s policy is regarding the allowing of Friday prayers at Masjid.
“I think their policy is that the Auqaf of the Jamia Masjid should give in writing that the atmosphere after the prayers should remain peaceful but who can assure that?” Naqshbandi told TwoCircles.net.
Naqshbandi has been leading the prayers in the mosque since 1964. He said he has never witnessed such a restriction.
“Even during the height of the armed insurgency in the nineties, prayers wouldn’t be disallowed at the mosque. However, when the Hurriyat came into existence, we saw some restrictions,” he told TwoCircles.net.
Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid Srinagar, which manages the mosque, expressed strong resentment over the decision.
In a statement, the Auqaf said that the central Jama Masjid, the religious and spiritual centre of the people of Kashmir, remains out of bounds for Muslims of the valley for obligatory Friday prayers as its lockdown by authorities continues.
“The sorrow and pain this causes people is unmitigated,” Auqaf’s statement read.
Anjuman said that the mosque has been forcibly locked down for 47 Friday’s in the last year, and consecutively for 26 Friday’s so far.
“Under a well-planned policy, continuously preventing the people from performing important religious duties like Friday prayers at the Jama Masjid is a serious violation of fundamental religious rights as well as interference in religion,” the statement reads.
The mosque has been an important place in the history of Kashmir’s political activities. Every Friday, the top Hurriyat leader and Mirwaiz of Kashmir Dr Umar Farooq would deliver speeches from the pulpit regarding the situation in Kashmir.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been under house arrest since the abrogation of J&K’s special status in August 2019.
He said the authorities have allowed political rallies in different parts of Kashmir.
The area where the mosque is located used to be the epicentre of protests and clashes between youth and security forces after Friday prayers.
During the civilian unrest in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016 the area witnessed frequent protests and clashes. Consequently, the authorities discontinued Friday prayers at the mosque.
According to data, the year 2021 witnessed the highest number of restrictions on Friday prayers. The mosque remained shut for at least 47 Fridays.
The data further revealed that the authorities disallowed congregational prayers for 21 Fridays in 2020, 26 in 2019, 16 in 2018, 18 in 2017 and 30 in 2016 when poster boy of Kashmir militancy Burhan Wani was killed.
In December last year, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Mayor, Junaid Azim Mattu wrote a letter to LG Manoj Sinha and urged him to restore Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid Srinagar.
“If Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid are being disallowed due to COVID concerns, then it seems to be a very discriminatory and selective application of those guidelines,” the letter read.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K. Pole didn’t respond to phone calls of this report for the government’s version. We will update the story as and when we get a response.
Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @Auqib Javeed.