Closure of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid on holiest day of Ramadan sparks controversy

Prayers were not permitted on the night of Shab-e-Qadr and Jumat-ul-Vida, the last Friday of Ramadan, due to security concerns

The famous Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area of the capital city of Srinagar was once again closed on Thursday night by the administration, causing an outcry. Local citizens questioned the administration’s assertions of ‘normalcy’ in the Valley after being barred from praying on the occasions of Shab-e-Qadr and Jumat-ul-Vida.

While Shab-e-Qadr (night of blessing) is the most auspicious night in the Islamic calendar, Jumat-ul-Vida is the last Friday of Ramadan, when almost two lakh people throughout the Valley congregate at the Jamia Masjid to offer prayers.

The Jamia opened in March after two-and-a-half years

Following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, and then due to Covid regulations, the grand mosque has been shuttered for most of the time for the last two and a half years. It has been operational only since March 1, 2022.

There have been consistent demands from the Anjuman Auqaf (caretaker committee of the mosque) for the release of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq but the authorities seem not to concede the demand anytime soon.

Decision of mosque’s closure angers devotees

A local from Nowhatta, who wished for anonymity, told Digpu News that people are very angered with the decision taken by the authorities to close down the mosque. “We haven’t been able to offer the Shab-e-Qadr and Jumat-ul-Vida namaz at Jamia Masjid for the previous three years,” he rued.

“This is a time when believers gather here and feel happy to pray in unison. However, the authorities are not allowing us to pray on such an auspicious occasion which is unacceptable to us,” a Srinagar woman, Fatima, said.

It is in place to mention that over one lakh devotees come to pray to the revered mosque on such special occasions since it is believed that all the prayers are answered here.

‘If devotees can’t pray in mosques, what does administration mean by normalcy’

An elderly man, who said he used to pray at the mosque frequently, questioned why was the government restricting people the ability to pray if the UT administration claims that everything is OK and normal? “It is really confusing as to what is meant by the word ‘normalcy’ by the authorities,” he wondered.

Meanwhile, no protest demonstration took place in response to the decision. “Anybody who dares to protest openly will be charged under the PSA (Public Safety Act) or the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act),” said a local fruit seller.

Decision unplanned but prompted by ‘reliable inputs’, says police

The decision to close the masjid was ‘unplanned’, according to a senior police official, who claimed that they received ‘reliable inputs’ of ‘activity’ inside the masjid.

“We had inputs that there would emerge a ‘situation-to-handle’ as a mammoth gathering was expected. Consequently, the precautionary measure was to close the mosque for prayers,” the officer disclosed.

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