By Jehangir Ali

Srinagar: Authorities disallowed the Jumat-ul-Vida congregational prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on Friday, April 14, prompting accusations by the Hurriyat that the closure of the mosque “belies” claims of normalcy in “Naya Kashmir”.

Eyewitnesses said that a J&K Police vehicle was parked at the shrine’s main gate, which was locked, on Friday morning, and the police personnel turned away worshippers who wanted to enter the mosque for offering the Jumat-ul-Vida prayers.

Jumat-ul-Vida is the last Friday of the ongoing Islamic month of Ramazan when Muslims are called upon by Islamic tenets to offer afternoon prayers in large congregations, which is believed to multiply the rewards for the worshipper.

When J&K was a state, thousands of people participated in prayers at Jamia Masjid, Kashmir’s biggest mosque located in Nowhatta locality of Srinagar which used to host some of the largest congregations on Jumat-ul-Vida and other auspicious Muslim festivals.

However, after Article 370 was read down, the mosque has often remained closed on the days of Islamic festivals as the administration fears that allowing congregational prayers at the mosque, which is the pulpit of Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leads to potential law and order problems which could spiral out of control.

An undercover deputy superintendent of police was lynched by a mob outside the mosque in 2017.

Although the traffic in Nowhatta was plying normally on Friday and many worshippers and locals, including women and children, flocked to the road outside the mosque in anticipation of the congregational prayers, there was palpable tension in the area.

A paramilitary CRPF vehicle was also doing rounds around the mosque, purportedly to keep an eye on any potential law and order problem in the area which has remained a hotbed of separatist sentiment in Kashmir.

With the police personnel standing guard at the locked gates of the mosque, a sense of anguish and disappointment was writ large on the faces of worshippers who had come from different corners of Kashmir to offer the prayers…

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