Clashes broke out in Srinagar on Friday as supporters of moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq pelted stones at security forces to protest the separatist leader’s house arrest since August 2019 following the abrogation of Article 370 provisions. Officials said police and other security personnel deployed in the area had to use force to chase away the protestors, but no one was hurt in the action.
Eyewitnesses, however, claimed that a woman sustained injuries in pellet gun firing. Supporters of the Mirwaiz initially held protests on the Jamia Masjid compound in Nowhatta area, but they poured into the roads after the congregational prayers concluded, the officials said.
Earlier in the day, the Hurriyat Conference condemned the government’s decision not to release the Mirwaiz. ”Hurriyat Conference expresses strong resentment and regret that after announcing the release of it’s chairman and Mirwaiz-e-Kashmir Umar Farooq from a 20-month-long house detention since August 2019, government authorities went back on their decision,” a Hurriyat spokesperson said.
On Thursday, a close aide of Umar Farooq had claimed that curbs on the movement of the Mirwaiz had been lifted. The administration, however, neither confirmed nor denied it. The spokesperson on Friday also claimed that police officials visited the Mirwaiz late Thursday night to convey that he would continue to be under house arrest and will not be allowed to go to the Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers.
”Since early morning, additional forces have been deployed outside his house and in the area,” he alleged. The spokesperson said the Hurriyat strongly condemned the flip-flop. ”Recently in Parliament, the minister of state for home affairs had categorically stated that no one in Jammu & Kashmir is under house arrest. If that is so, then why does the Mirwaiz continue to be detained,” he asked.
He also appealed to people to not lose hope and in no way resort to any form of violent protest. The Mirwaiz, who is also the chief priest of Kashmir, was among hundreds of political leaders — both separatist and mainstream — who were taken into custody or placed under house arrest as the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution 19 months ago.
While most leaders were released by March last year, some including the Mirwaiz continued to be under detention.