J&K Admin Lifts Mirwaiz's 'Illegal' House Arrest More Than Four Years After it Was Imposed

Last week, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had challenged his detention in the high court. The court had given the administration four weeks to respond.

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration has reportedly conveyed to the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, that the curbs imposed on him since 2019 have been lifted, sources said.

“Senior officials visited the residence of Mirwaiz yesterday to inform him that the authorities have decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers today,” an official of Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid (AAJM), said.

A senior Jammu and Kashmir police official also confirmed to The Wire that the curbs imposed on Mirwaiz have been lifted and he would be allowed to lead the prayers at Jamia Masjid on Friday, September 22.

“After more than four years, he is ready to deliver the sermon and lead the Friday prayers at the mosque. It is a matter of great delight for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the official of AAJM, which is the managing body of the 14th-century mosque located in downtown Srinagar’s Nowhatta locality, said.

The decision to end the curbs on the Mirwaiz comes at a time when the J&K administration, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government, seems to be in the midst of reaching out to religious leaders and scholars of Kashmir who were outlawed in the events following the reading down of Article 370.

On Wednesday, September 20, Darakhshan Andrabi, a BJP National Executive member, visited the residence of Mushtaq Ahmad Veeri, a prominent religious cleric of Jamiat-Ahle Hadees who was arrested and booked last year under the Public Safety Act, a draconian legislation used against militant sympathisers and separatist elements in Kashmir.

Darakhshan, who heads J&K’s Wakf Board, offered a Kashmiri shawl to Veeri, calling him “very precious” for Jammu and Kashmir. The senior BJP leader also posted photos from the visit on X.

Last week, the Mirwaiz had approached the J&K high court with a habeas corpus petition, challenging his “illegal” detention since August 4, 2019, a day before the Union government bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir and divided the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.

Mirwaiz had told the court that he was put under curbs without any official order and security personnel deployed outside the main gate of his residence in Srinagar’s Nigeen locality had been preventing visitors from meeting him for more than four years.

The petition had also stated that Mirwaiz, an influential religious leader in Kashmir, has been deprived of fundamental rights guaranteed to him under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The court had asked the J&K administration to respond to the petition within four weeks and the case was listed for detailed objections from the administration on October 4.

Earlier, the Mirwaiz, whose father Molvi Mohammad Farooq was assassinated in Srinagar on May 21, 1990, had sent a notice to J&K’s chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, threatening to legally challenge his “unwarranted”, “illegal” and “arbitrary” detention. The notice was also marked to lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, and the J&K police chief. Sources said that the administration has not replied to the notice so far.

The J&K administration has been denying that Mirwaiz, who has participated in Indo-Pak dialogue on Kashmir under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, is under house detention.

Earlier this year, LG Sinha claimed that the Mirwaiz, who is also the chief cleric of Kashmir, was “free to go wherever he likes”, a claim rejected by the Hurriyat leader in his Habeas Corpus petition which accuses the administration of infringing on his religious duties.

As chief cleric of Kashmir, the Mirwaiz legislated and issued decrees on social and religious matters and also led prayers on Fridays and other significant religious days at the historic Jamia Masjid. The petition in the high court describes his detention as a “deliberate attempt to hurt the religious sentiments of people of J&K”.

“By confining him, he has not only being deprived of his noble mission and cause but such illegal action of respondents are also depriving hundreds and thousands of people from listening to his inspiring Friday sermons and the sermons he delivers across the valley on important religious occasions,” the petition states.

Last month, Mutahida Mailis-e-Ulema, a conglomerate of leading religious organisations in Kashmir, had written a letter seeking an appointment with LG Sinha and obtaining his intervention in the release of Mirwaiz.

However, the Lieutenant Governor’s office has not responded to the letter so far.

Political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir have welcomed Mirwaiz’s release.