Srinagar, India, Apr 29 (EFE).- Indian authorities did not allow Muslims to offer congregational prayers in disputed Kashmir’s central mosque on the last Friday of the month of fasting.
The authorities did not cite any reason for the ban, which also included restrictions around the central mosque in the heart of Srinagar, the main city of Kashmir.
However, they locked down the mosque and did not allow people to move towards it to prevent a large gathering from staging anti-India protests.
The authorities also did not allow night-long prayers at the Jamia Masjid to mark Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, which Muslims mark as the occasion when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Kashmiris have for decades been observing the last Friday of Ramadan or Jumat-ul-Vida, as the “Kashmir Day” and “Quds Day,” an annual global event to protest the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem.
Hundreds of thousands of worshipers would gather for the midday prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan at the centuries-old Jamia Masjid and nearby lanes and roads to offer namaz led from the mosque.
“The Jamia Masjid administration was conveyed by police and other authorities that the government has decided not to allow night-long prayers and Friday congregation in the historic worship place,” its general-secretary Altaf Hussain told EFE.
Requesting anonymity, a police officer told EFE that they apprehended protests at the mosque, forcing its “temporary closure” from Thursday evening.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head priest of Kashmir and senior separatist leader, condemned the move as “outrageous.”
“Not allowing congregational prayers at the central mosque of the valley on this blessed day is outrageous and against the fundamental right to religious practice,” said the Mirwaiz in a statement.
He has been under house arrest for the last two and half years.
Rights activists say protests are rare in the region after the government cracked down harshly against what it calls “anti-national forces in Kashmir” since August 2019, when India stripped the Muslim-majority territory of its semi-autonomous status.
The region has been at the heart of India-Pakistan disputes since 1947 when British rule ended in the sub-continent. EFE