Srinagar, India, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- India on Thursday ended the 20-month detention of a popular separatist leader in Kashmir, a week after New Delhi and Islamabad pledged to make peace and stop cross-border skirmishes in the disputed region.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the so-called moderate faction of All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC), told EFE over the phone that the authorities had informed him that he could now move out from his residence in Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city.
“I have been conveyed that my house-detention is over and I am free to move out,” said the leader, who is also the head priest of Jamia Masjid, the city’s grand mosque.
However, a police vehicle was still stationed outside his residence, said the Mirwaiz, 47, who has been demanding the right to self-determination.
He is expected to address a gathering on Friday at Jamia Masjid where he reads weekly Friday sermons to thousands of worshipers from across the Kashmir Valley.
“I am looking forward to offer Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid tomorrow,” said the Mirwaiz. If allowed, it he would his first Friday sermon after 82 weeks.
He was put under house detention on Aug.4, 2019, a day before India suddenly ended the semi-autonomous status of the Himalayan region, ostensibly to bring peace and development to the Muslim majority state.
The government detained thousands of political activists, leaders, and young men before and after scrapping the special status as a preemptive move to curb anti-India protests against the unilateral decision that has been challenged in court.
The decision also followed a strict imposition of restrictions on people’s movement, communication blockade, and the imposition of controversial laws that many in the region say will change the demography of Kashmir.
The move led to the further deterioration of ties between India and Pakistan, the two neighbors that claim the region in full but rule only in parts.
However, the two countries moved a step closer to better ties on Feb.25 when their armies renewed their pledge to a ceasefire along the disputed boundary in Kashmir.
The vow to make peace came after months of intermittent firing along the Line of Control, the de-facto border, which divides Kashmir between the nuclear-armed neighbors. EFE-EPA