Yet again the National Conference-led coalition government placed senior pro-freedom leaders under house arrest on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. Most of the leaders were barred from attending the Eid prayers. In fact, it has now become routine for the government to either detain these leaders in police stations or place them under house arrest even on religious occasions. Since NC and Congress coalition assumed office nearly six years ago, Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani has been barely allowed to offer Friday congregational prayers. Chairman of the other Hurriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has also been denied Friday prayers many a time. Even prayers have not been allowed at Kashmir’s grand mosque, the Jamia Masjid, where Mirwaiz delivers the Friday sermons.
Barring any person from offering prayers is an infringement on religious freedom. Thankfully, so far the Kashmiri struggle has not assumed religious overtones. The leaders spearheading the struggle have largely maintained a good distance between religion and politics. Leaders like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik have repeatedly said that Kashmir is a political conflict and have sought to delink it from religion. Yet the State is barring these leaders to offer Fridayand Eid prayers. Most of the Kashmiris have usually kept religion a personal affair. They don’t get easily swayed by religious slogans. And yet, the State is dangerously playing with a sentiment that is bound to flare up. For Muslims, Friday and Eid prayers are very important that ought to be offered in congregation. State is denying the azadi camp this right despite no threat of violence.
The NC government must analyse and revisit it policy related to religious rights of the leaders from the azadi camp. People take its oft-repeated claims of being a ‘secular’ dispensation with a pinch of salt, as on one hand it allows humongous number of Hindu pilgrims to visit Amarnath cave shrine—in spite of concerns raised by prominent Hindu seer like Swami Agnivesh time and again—and on the other the leaders of the majority community are being denied to perform their religious obligation.Tomorrow if the leaders of azadi camp decide to convert their residential houses into mosques what will the State do? Will it ban people from entering into such mosques? It would be advisable for the government not to curb the religious right of any Kashmiri.