SRINAGAR: Emerging from four years of house arrest, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq took to the revered pulpit of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. Tears welled in his eyes as he embarked on his first speech, discussing peace, the prevailing silence in Kashmir, and the division of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.

While talking about his role in the current situation, Mirwaiz said, “At present, there is absolutely no space for us, for the expression of our opinions, aspirations, and concerns. What can we do? This is the time to conserve, be patient, and act responsibly.”

Amid extensive security arrangements and a presence of photographers and journalists across the Masjid, Mirwaiz’s congregation proceeded peacefully. No separatist slogans were raised in the mosque.

Mirwaiz said he and his colleagues in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference have consistently emphasised that Kashmir is a complex issue involving India, Pakistan, and China, focusing on the human aspect. He quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asserting their commitment to resolution through dialogue and reconciliation despite being labelled separatists.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid after being released from house arrest on September 22,2023 (KL Image)

Mirwaiz also advocated for the return of Kashmiri Pandits and criticised the politicisation of the issue. He expressed concern for incarcerated individuals, including leaders, youths, journalists, human rights activists, and lawyers, urging their release. He shared his emotional experience during the four-year house arrest, saying, “I am meeting you after four years and two months. Since August 4, 2019, I was placed under house arrest…all my rights and liberties were curtailed. It is a very emotional moment for me.”

“The institution of the Mirwaiz believes in outreach. It believes in dialogue and reason. It is incumbent upon the Mirwaiz, referred to as Naib e Rasool, to convey the truth to power and to people, and play his role in the interest of people and peace. History is witness to the fact that the Mirwaiz has always propagated dialogue and accord, even at the cost of personal loss and suffering,” he said.

Regarding the abrogation of Article 370, he noted that despite their house arrest, the APHC had voiced their concerns about the situation, but their statements were often suppressed in local media.

Following his release, all eyes were on the first sermon of Mirwaiz that he delivered at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid. Jammu and Kashmir-based political parties, including the National Conference, PDP, Peoples Conference, and even BJP, have welcomed the release of the Mirwaiz.


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