Updated: December 24, 2021 5:33:16 pm
Friday prayers were stopped for the 20th consecutive week since August 6 this year at Srinagar’s Grand Mosque. While the mosque has been largely out of bounds for worshippers on Fridays since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019, this year it has remained shut on 44 of the 52 Fridays so far.
“We have now lost count of the number of times the mosque has been closed for Friday prayers,” says Altaf Ahmad Bhat, Secretary of the Grand Mosque’s Auqaf (management committee). “Every Friday, the police come in the morning, tell our staff that there is no permission for the prayers and seal the mosque. They don’t give any reason for it,” he said.
Asked why Friday prayers were not allowed at the Grand Mosque, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said: “Please enquire from the civil administration”.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Mohammad Ajaz Asad, did not respond to repeated calls or messages.
While the Grand Mosque was closed after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019 to prevent a huge congregation from gathering and to avoid a law and order problem, the mosque was subsequently kept shut on Fridays as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, even as the second wave of Covid subsided and the government relaxed guidelines that prevented the assembly of people, congregating at the mosque was still not allowed. Over the last several months, the Jammu and Kashmir government has allowed massive official functions, political rallies and conventions as well as Christmas and New Year celebrations to take place.
“We are unable to understand how all places of worship, mosques, shrines, imambargahs and Khanqahs in Jammu and Kashmir are open for Friday prayers, but only Jamia Masjid, Srinagar, continues to be selectively banned and restricted from holding Friday prayers, which is extremely unfortunate and incomprehensible,” the Auqaf said in a statement. “This behaviour of the rulers is tantamount to sheer interference in religion and hurting the religious sentiments and feelings of Muslims, which is unacceptable,” it added.
Situated in Nowhatta, in the centre of the old Srinagar city, the Jamia Masjid has been one of the oldest mosques in the city, built six centuries ago. It is one of the main mosques in the valley and is the centre of religion and politics. The mosque used to be the pulpit of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has been under house arrest since the abrogation of J&K’s special status.
“In the name of law and order and Covid, we are being stopped from offering even prayers now,” said a resident of Nowhatta. “Why are curbs selective? If political rallies can be held, if other places of worship can remain open, why can’t we open the Jamia Masjid. There seems to be a sinister design behind it,” he added.
On Thursday, while inaugurating the century-old St Luke’s Church in Srinagar that was renovated by the government, J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha called it a unique example of the region’s “composite culture”. “Reopening of St Luke’s Church in Srinagar after restoration is a historic occasion to celebrate and imbibe Lord Christ’s message of sacrifice, service, redemption, love and compassion,” he said.
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