For the first time since 2016 summer agitation triggered by the killing of tech-savvy Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, no congregational Friday prayers were held at the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar for the 16th consecutive week today. Police said that restrictions were lifted in and around the Jamia Masjid and had informed Jamia Auqaf to offer prayers there on last Friday only.In 2016, according to Anjuman-e-Auqaf Jamia Masjid Srinagar, the grand masjid remained locked for 16 Fridays and this year after August 5, when Centre announced to scrap the Article 370 and to bifurcate the erstwhile State into two Union Territories (UTs), the masjid was sealed for 15 Fridays again this year while as per police, on 16th Friday, the restrictions were lifted in and around the Masjid.“Jamia Masjid is a spiritual centre of every single Kashmiri and closed the same has hurt the sentiments of thousands of people across the Valley who would throng the masjid to offer congregational prayers,” a senior member of Auqaf, told the wire service—Kashmir News Observer (KNO).Miwaiz Umar Farooq, who would otherwise deliver sermons at the grand masjid, continues to remain under house detention at his Nigeen residence since August 5.
A top police official told KNO that the restrictions in and around the historic Jamia Masjid were lifted on last Friday only and the decision was conveyed to all the members of Auqaf. “Unlike other Fridays, no restrictions were imposed in and around the Jamia Masjid today and the Auqaf was asked to open the Masjid and offer the mandatory congregational prayers there,” he said.However, a senior member of Auqaf said that the government must lift the presence of forces in and around the Jamia Masjid and release its Chief cleric and Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq first from the house detention. Mirwaiz is undergoing detention since August 5.Meanwhile, spontaneous shutdown continued across Srinagar including the commercial hub Lal Chowk on the second day after week-long normal activities started in Kashmir first time since August 5.However, posters were pasted on the shutters of shops and walls in various parts of old city triggering a fresh wave of fear as ‘written messages on posters’ asked shopkeepers and transporters to shut their shops and maintain shutdown. The movement of public transport was also thin. However, private transport movement was normal across Srinagar. (KNO)