Kashmir’s chief cleric and Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is likely to deliver a Friday sermon this week, first since the Centre removed special provisions of Article 370 in August 2019. In a telephonic conversation with The Hindu , the Mirwaiz talks about the time spent within the confines of his home and the path ahead to find a permanent peace in Kashmir.
Q / Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha says you are a ‘free man’ and was never detained since August 2019. Are you a ‘free man’?
A / Yes, I am free enough to move inside my house, thankfully. If I was a ‘free man‘ why wasn’t I allowed to offer Friday prayers and deliver the sermons at the Jamia Masjid for the last three years? Since 4th of August 2019, I have been forcibly confined to my house. Police vehicles and forces personnel are stationed on both sides of my house near the gates. I am not allowed to move out and only close relatives and a few office staff allowed to come in, after verification by the police at the gate. It is for all to see, not something hidden. Three years of continuous house incarceration so far.
Q / Why do you think J&K L-G made such a statement?
A / The L-G sahab knows the best why he made such a statement. You should ask him. To be honest when I heard it first, I was amazed by it. I couldn’t believe that a person occupying the highest office would misrepresent facts so publicly. Not only were the facts distorted they were twisted to create a false impression. If the idea was to defame me, I do not think it has worked. Truth always prevails.
Q / Were you ever allowed to leave the premises in the past three years?
A / My grandmother who lived with us since I was born passed away in 2021. I led her funeral prayers in the lawns of my house but was not allowed by the authorities to go to the graveyard with other family members. It broke my heart when her body was leaving the house and I stood there alone in tears. Few months later, my uncle, my late father’s elder brother, passed away. I was taken under police bandobust to his house to offer funeral prayers and then brought back home immediately, without meeting my aunt or cousins, nor was I again allowed to go to the graveyard with others to bury him. That was also very painful.
Q / How would you spend time within the confines of your house?
A / The last three years of incarceration have been an experience. Initially when there was the complete clampdown, ban and Internet blackout by authorities in August of 2019, I was restless and greatly anxious for people and what they must feel and what they may do, also what would happen to them. But gradually with time as the authorities’ plan started unfolding more and more, it became clear what they were aiming at. I understood it is going to be a long battle, and so a time to safeguard and be patient. I also realised that people of Kashmir have over centuries of subjugation and decades of conflict inculcated resilience and instinct that will pull them through and not let machinations against them succeed. This is time for patience, grit and building and strengthening of our character. During the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of my time was spent praying to Allah to seek his protection and help us in the grave crisis that struck all humanity. It has also been a time of introspection. During past years I have spent time reading.
Q / As a ‘free man’, what have you decided to do now?
A / I have greatly missed delivering Friday sermons at the central Jamia Masjid and during the month of Ramzan. I greatly look forward to doing so. Once I am released, I want to meet people and listen to them. I want to meet my colleagues and party men and listen and talk to them. My political stand has and will be the same. Resolve the conflict peacefully among the stakeholders, stop suppression of people of J&K and give real peace a chance in the subcontinent.