There are no congregational prayers in Srinagar's Jamina Masjid to 'record' 18 consecutive Friday

SRINAGAR: No congregational prayers were offered in Srinagar Jamia Masjid, for the 18th consecutive Friday, since the Center announced the repeal of the provisions of Article 370 on August 5, the longest confinement of the great mosque in recent memory, authorities said.

Prayer restrictions are still in effect and we have not been allowed to offer prayers at Jamia Masjid, said an official at Jamia Masjid Auqaf, the mosque's administrative committee.

He said the police closed the main doors of the great mosque and did not allow congregational prayers or the purification of Jamia Masjid.

This is for the first time in recent memory, after the eruption of militancy in the Kashmir Valley, that no congregational prayers have been offered in the mosque for 18 consecutive Fridays due to restrictions by the authorities.

During the 2016 riots, after the murder of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani, the mosque was closed for about four months and no congregational prayers were offered there for 16 consecutive Fridays.

However, this time, the mosque has been closed for 18 consecutive Fridays, which is more than the number of times it was closed in 2016. In addition, in 2016, prayers from Fajar (morning) and Isha (night) were allowed in the mosque. , but this time, no prayers have been allowed, the official said.

The authorities sealed the Jamia Masjid in area in downtown (Old City) Srinagar as strict restrictions were imposed across the valley on the morning of August 5, hours before the Center announced its decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 and to divide Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

While the restrictions gradually eased and prayers were allowed in other large mosques and shrines throughout the valley, Jamia Masjid remained locked.

Apprehending that vested interests might exploit the large gatherings at the grand mosque to fuel protests, the authorities sealed the Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta area in downtown (Old City) Srinagar as strict restrictions were imposed across the valley on the morning of August 5, hours before the Center announced its decision to repeal the provisions of Article 370 and to divide Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.

While the restrictions gradually eased and prayers were allowed in other large mosques and shrines throughout the valley, Jamia Masjid remained locked.

People have criticized the continuing restrictions on prayers in the great mosque, saying it was an attack on their religious freedom.

They (the authorities) have exceeded previous brake records in the mosque. Never in Kashmir's recent history have we seen curbs in the mosque for so long. This is an attack on our religious freedom, said Nazir, a resident of the city center, said.

Another local, Parvez Ganai, said the continued closure of the mosque rebuked the government's claims that normalcy returned in the valley.

If there is normality, why not open Jamia Masjid to pray? Why keep people away from him, Ganai said.

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