This past Thursday, as the curbs were loosened over the separatist camp, a mail was dispatched from the ‘powerful’ Nigeen Residence, inviting scribes for a hurriedly-conveyed press briefing. In a jiffy, a vehicle pulled over in Press Enclave.

The moment bus load of newsmen arrived at Nigeen residence, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, dressed in a meticulous dress, showed up on the scene. For the day, scribes sensed in advance the motive behind the brisk press briefing. Mirwaiz didn’t keep anyone guessing for so long. He trained guns at government for its “oppressive tactics” at the outset. Unlike last time, when he was blazing all guns against Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz this time around calmly castigated the Mufti government for unleashing “a reign of terror” in the state.

The press conference came in the backdrop of successive crackdown on youth and separatist leadership. But interestingly, it came days after youth enforced civil shutdown in Old City – considered Mirwaiz’s bastion. Those who had enforced the shutdown had criticised the separatist politics for relying heavily on “one-day strikes”. The chairperson of the Awami Action Committee was candid enough to admit the charge, if not vocal about it. Mirwaiz termed the ‘strike-adherence’ politics a compulsion for the separatist groups – who, he says, have no other option. In the same breath, he maintained that downtown has been turned into a small prison and literal laboratory for using pepper gas.

Listed as one of The 500 Most Influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Jordan, Mirwaiz proposed a joint program. He is organising the program in his heritage home in restive Rajouri Kadal area, Mirwaiz Manzil on November 18, he said, would witness participation of separatist leaders, civil society members, trader bodies, business community, editors, journalists and lawyers. The convergence is aimed to arrive at ‘alternate strategy’ to counter the ‘state aggression’.

Inherited as the 14th Mirwaiz in 1990 at 17 after his father’s assassination, Mirwaiz is an alumnus of the prestigious Burn Hall School in Srinagar. He wanted to become a software engineer but his fate shift landed him into politics. Named one among the Asian Heroes by Time magazine, Mirwaiz minced no words to assert that Mufti’s “healing touch” has turned into “killer touch” and that Kashmir is being “run by police” under “the barrel of gun”.

– Riyaz Ul Khaliq


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