SRINAGAR: Since the start of the anti-India uprising in Kashmir on July 8, the government forces have disallowed prayers in the historic Jamia Masjid of Kashmir for 70 days at a stretch, including on Fridays.
“We have not offered any prayers (in the mosque) since the anti-India uprising began. We offer Magrib prayers only when the forces withdraw at dusk,” said Mohammad Yaseen, who is the Moazin for the grand central mosque of Kashmir.
“We don’t dare to come out of our homes, because here terror always hangs in the air. We have not even offered Eid prayers for the first time in our lives due to these restrictions.”
The mosque was built in 15th century by the then-Muslim king Sultan Sikander. It is spread over a vast area, with four entry gates and numerous pillars holding the crafted wooden ceiling.
Previously, only the Sikh and Dogra rulers of the state are recorded to have closed the mosque for prayers for years together. In the period following the end of Dogra rule, the masjid has witnessed intermittent brief periods of siege enforced by the state administration or New Delhi.
Yaseen, whose family has been offering Aazan (call for prayers) in the mosque for the last 450 years, said that the forces surround the mosque at 6 am, blocking its entrances with iron chains or sheets.
In the days when there are no restrictions the mosque is cleaned daily, but nowadays it is partially cleaned once a week or after every 10 days.
“It is worst situation I have witnessed in my life. Never have I seen the mosque remain out of bounds for the people for so long. This period has surpassed every level of oppression. Even Eid prayers were not held in the mosque due to restrictions for the first time,” Yaseen said.
Amidst restrictions, the locals who habitual of praying in the mosque have turned to the smaller mosques located in the interiors of old Srinagar. There are six small mosques surrounding the Jamia Masjid, including Bilal, Qaza, Wahab, Khashir and Patwan mosques.
“These days, I prefer to offer prayers in any of these mosques. I chose a mosque according to the situation. I stay at home when I cannot go to any mosque due to restrictions and it has been occurred regularly,” Mehraj-u-Din, who lives near the Jamia Masjid, said.