Srinagar, India, Sep 22 (EFE).- India released senior Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Friday after a four-year house arrest that began when the government revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Muslim-majority region in August 2019.
Umar Farooq, also the chief cleric of the historic Jamia Masjid, led Friday prayers at the central mosque in Srinagar, where thousands of supporters welcomed him with applause.
The separatist leader invoked Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “this is not an era of war” statement to urge the Indian government to pursue “dialogue and reconciliation” to resolve the Kashmir issue.
He emphasized that Kashmir “is an issue that has to be addressed and resolved,” and the “international community has ratified this too,” calling the dispute “a human problem” and “not a territorial tug of war.”
He also called for the return of Kashmiri Hindus, who fled their homeland after the eruption of armed rebellion by Muslims against Indian rule.
“We believe in peaceful coexistence between communities and nations, between the strong and the weak, between the majority and the minority.”
He noted that challenges to the region’s identity had emerged since the government ended its special constitutional status in 2019.
“Post that, new laws and diktats being imposed incessantly, unfortunately, are harsh unilateral decisions of disempowerment,” he said.
He asked his supporters to “be patient and act responsibly.”
“Indeed, after hardship, there is relief,” the cleric said, citing a Quranic verse.
The mosque management committee said the authorities informed Mirwaiz on Thursday evening that the government had decided to let him go to Jamia Masjid for the weekly Friday prayers.
His release comes days after he moved to Kashmir’s high court, seeking an end to his detention.
On Sep.15, the court gave four weeks to the government administration to file its response to Mirwaiz’s petition.
The federally appointed ruler’s administration contradicted their claim of placing Mirwaiz under house arrest.
The government used to say that the senior cleric was provided security for his safety and was otherwise free to move as he pleased.
Days ago, the government also released two religious clerics, Abdul Rashid Dawoodi and Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri, arrested months ago for alleged anti-government activities.
Both the religious scholars were welcomed by local BJP leaders, a move strongly criticized by the regional parties.
“Religious leaders now released and felicitated by the BJP… were earlier accused of being a security threat by the ruling party,” former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti wrote on messaging app X, formerly Twitter.
“While they (the BJP leaders) engage in dirty political games, wonder what it will take to free other preachers accused of the same crime.”
Mirwaiz’s other separatist colleagues remain in jail after their arrest on August 4, 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took the decision to downgrade Kashmir’s status.