Mirwaiz Umar released after 4 years; delivers Friday sermon, calls for peace, return of Pandits

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India Tomorrow

SRINAGAR—Emotions ran high as Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq climbed the pulpit at Jamia Masjid to deliver Friday sermon after four years. Mirwaiz, who is the chief cleric of Kashmir, could not hold back his tears as people chanted slogans.

It was Mirwaiz’s first public appearance after August 4, 2019. He was put under house detention a day before the Centre abrogated Article 370 and downgraded Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.

“I am meeting you after 4 years and nearly two months. Since the 4th of August 2019, I was placed under detention in my home by the authorities and not allowed to move out or to meet with people. All my rights and liberties were curtailed. Despite repeated appeals from one and all, I was not released,” he said.

Mirwaiz said he was informed by the police officials on Thursday that authorities had decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid.

“It was after I took this matter to the court. So Alhumdulilah, I am here today after 4 long years. It is a very emotional moment for me. I thank Almighty Allah that he made it possible and once again today I am in Jamia, among you. It has also been made possible by your ‘duas’,” he said.

He said being away from the people has been a very difficult period for him.  “Since August 2019, I am aware it has not been easy on you, there have been assaults on our identity. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, the downgrading of J&K into a union territory from a state, and the dismemberment of Ladakh from it. Post that new laws and diktats being imposed incessantly through the reorganization Act, unfortunately, are harsh unilateral decisions of disempowerment,” he said.

 He said the institution of Mirwaiz believes in outreach. “It believes in dialogue and reason. It is incumbent upon the Mirwaiz, referred to as Naib-e-Rasool, to convey the truth to power and to people, and play his role in the interest of people and peace. History is witness to the fact that Mirwaiz has always propagated dialogue and accord, even at the cost of personal loss and suffering,” he said

Mriwaiz said Hurriyat has all along been voicing its anguish over the developing situation. “As PM Modi rightly said this is not an era of war. We have always believed and participated in efforts of resolution through an alternative to violent means which is dialogue and reconciliation. We have personally suffered for pursuing this route. We are not so-called separatists or peace disrupters but realist resolution seekers. We have no personal ambition but to represent the interests and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are our basic concern and people want settlement, and peace bringing prosperity with it, but on their (people) terms,” he said.

 Mirwaiz also called for the return of Kashmir pandits. “We believe in peaceful coexistence between communities and nations between the strong and the weak, between the majority and the minority. We have always advocated the return of Kashmiri pandits and disapproved of making this human issue a political one. Stern approach to dealing with issues is a dangerous thing. It leads to human rights violations. Dozens of our leaders, men, and women have been languishing in jails for years, thousands of young men and boys, journalists, human rights activists, and lawyers are suffering incarceration. They need to be released as soon as possible. Their health and families are suffering,” he said.

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