Srinagar, India, March 4 (EFE).- Srinagar’s iconic Jamia Masjid mosque, Kashmir’s largest, reopened Friday for prayers after almost eight months of closure, Indian authorities announced.
“We were informed early today by police authorities to go for the Friday prayers,” Altaf Ahmad, General Secretary of the administrative committee of the mosque, told Efe.
The mosque has been subjected to a 31-week ban imposed by authorities to prevent crowds from morphing into anti-government protests.
The measure has been in force intermittently for the past two and a half years after New Delhi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region in August 2019.
“We were allowed Friday prayers in the month of December 2020, for five weeks only,” the mosque spokesperson added.
The mosque, which was built in the 15th century, has traditionally been a hub for political activities.
“The Jamia Masjid has a credit that it has always raised its voice for the political rights of the people of Kashmir,” Abdullah, a 70-year-old local who revealed only half his name, told Efe.
“That is why authorities have always seen this place as a trouble spot,” Abdullah added.
Thousands of people attended Friday prayers at the mosque, visibly moved to be worshiping together at the temple again.
“Unfortunately, the Srinagar Jamia Masjid remained shut for so long despite the fact that the followers of all the religions across the world were attending their respective religious places of worship freely and performing rituals,” Altaf said.
Authorities also imposed curfews, cut off communications, and placed the region’s main religious and political leaders under house arrest.
Although many restrictions were gradually lifted across much of the region and most mosques, the Jamia Masjid temple remained closed.
Chief cleric and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who used to deliver Friday sermons at the mosque, has been under house arrest since August 5, 2019.
Another officer of the Jamia Masjid administrative committee told Efe his detention was “unjustified” and “illegal”.
“It also raises questions over the false Indian claims of being a secular country where every religion is treated alike,” the officer added, on condition of anonymity.
Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority region.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars and several minor conflicts over Kashmir since 1947. EFE