NEW DELHI: Kashmir’s chief cleric and Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wants to deliver a Friday sermon this week, according to The Hindu. If allowed, it would be his first since the Centre removed special provisions of Article 370 from the Indian constitution in August 2019,

In a telephonic conversation with the paper, Mirwaiz slammed claims by the Indian government that he had never been detained since the military crackdown began on Aug 5, 2019.

The government says he was free to move around, he was reminded. If that is true he would like to be at the sermon on Friday.

“I have greatly missed delivering Friday sermons at the Jamia Masjid (in Srinagar) and (especially) during Ramazan. I greatly look forward to doing so,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.

“Once I am released, I want to meet people and listen to them. I want to meet my colleagues and party men and listen and talk to them. My political stand has and will be the same.

“Resolve the conflict peacefully among the stakeholders, stop suppression of people of J&K and give real peace a chance in the Sub-continent.”

The interviewer reminded him that Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha says Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is a ‘free man’ and was never detained since August 2019. Was he a ‘free man’? The Hindu asked him.

”Yes, I am free enough to move inside my house, thankfully. If I was a ‘free man’ why wasn’t I allowed to offer Friday prayers and deliver sermons at Jamia Masjid for the last three years?

“Since Aug 4, 2019, I have been forcibly confined to my house. Police vehicles and force personnel are stationed on both sides of my house near the gates. I am not allowed to move out and only close relatives and a few office staff are allowed to come in, after verification by the police at the gate.

“It is for all to see, not something hidden. Three years of continuous house incarceration so far.”

Mirwaiz said he was surprised that a person occupying the highest office in the disputed state would misrepresent facts so publicly.

“Not only were the facts distorted, they were twisted to create a false impression. If the idea was to defame me, I do not think it has worked. Truth always prevails.”

His grandmother, who lived with him, passed away last year. He led her funeral prayers in the lawns of his house but was not allowed by the authorities to go to the graveyard with other family members.

“It broke my heart when her body was leaving the house and I stood there alone in tears.

“The last three years of incarceration have been an experience...I was restless and greatly anxious for people and what they must feel and what they may do, also what would happen to them.

“But gradually with time as the authorities’ plan started unfolding more and more, it became clear what they were aiming at. I understood it is going to be a long battle, and so a time to safeguard and be patient. I also realised that people of Kashmir have over centuries of subjugation and decades of conflict inculcated resilience and instinct that will pull them through and not let machinations against them succeed.

“This is time for patience, grit and building and strengthening of our character.”

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2022

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