Restrictions a preventive measure, says official, people make failed attempt to offer prayers at Khawajabazar, police use tear gas shells, mild clashes in area
Srinagar, Nov 01 (KNO): Authorities on Friday imposed strict curbs in downtown Srinagar to disallow the congregational Friday prayers at the historic Jamia masjid for the 13thconsecutive week and to bar people from participating in the traditional Khoje-Digar prayers at revered shrine of Hazrat Naqshband sahib (RA) at Khojebazar area of Srinagar’s Old City.
Meanwhile, life continued to remain out of gear across Kashmir for the 89th straight day—the first day after Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were declared as Union Territories (UTs) officially.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who continues to remain under house arrest since August 5, who would otherwise address devotees at Hazrat Naqshband sahib shrine (RA) on the eve of Khoje-Digar, the congregational Asr prayers, wasn’t allowed to reach the shrine, first time in the recent years.
Witnesses told the wire service –Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that security forces were deployed in strength across downtown including Nowhatta, Maharaj Gunj, Rainawari and Khanyar areas while as all the major roads were sealed with reams of concertina wires. “Nobody was allowed to move on the streets, let alone private traffic. Only security vehicles could be seen plying while as security forces personnel wearing riot gear were patrolling the roads,” said a resident of Nowhatta, pleading not to be quoted by name.
As per KNO, he said that deployment was more in Nowhatta and Khawaja Bazar areas of downtown in view of Friday and the traditional Khoje-Digar—the congregational Asr prayers offered at the revered shrine of Hazrat Naqshband Sahib (RA) every year to mark the annual Urs of the saint.
Every year, hundreds of people would assemble at the shrine to participate in the congregational Asr prayers. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq would lead special prayers for repentance before the prayers and also shed light on the saint’s religious contribution.
Locals of downtown expressed their deep anguish and anger over the decision of authorities for not allowing Khoj-e-Digar. “This is religious interference and we strongly condemn this. Our religious sentiments and emotions stand badly hurt as this occasion comes once in a year and yet we were barred from participating in this spiritual event,” said aged Khawaja Abdul Aziz, a resident of Khanyar area of downtown, Srinagar.
Witnesses said that people made unsuccessful bid to offer Asr prayers at Naqsband Sahab (RA) shrine but were dispersed as police fired a few tear gas shells at the devotees. Mild clashes also broke out in the area.
As per the residents of downtown, congregational prayers were not allowed at the historic Jamia Masjid for the 13th Friday in a row as all the entry and exit gates of the grand masjid remained closed amid heavy deployment of security forces.
“Nobody was allowed to walk towards the historic Masjid. A few elderly people tried to walk towards Masjid, but they were asked to go back by the security men at Nowhatta chowk,” an eye-witness told KNO.
A senior police officer said that curbs were imposed in downtown parts given three reasons, Friday, Khoje-Digar and the first day of J&K as a Union Territory (UT). “Restrictions were put in place to ensure there is no law and order incident,” the officer said.