By Murtaza Shibli
Bijbehara: At the central Jamia Masjid in old town Bijbehara, around 7,000 people offered Friday prayers, a third collective Jummah prayer in a row, following the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani.
People from all walks of life had converged from adjoining villages to present a unified message amid a show of defiance and support for the ongoing uprising that has gripped Kashmir for over three weeks now.
The speakers called for unity, asking people to remain steadfast and follow the Hurriyat calendar. A message from the Hizbul Mujahideen was also read out that sensitised people to “nefarious activities” of what it characterised “anti-movement activities” of certain elements.
The speeches were occasionally interrupted by the slogan shouting youth who had thronged the venue in strength. Many of the die-hard supporters of the ruling PDP who were present in the crowd showed untamed enthusiasm to fit in with the crowd and the defiant mood. Several of them were so forcefully responding to the slogans that it was impossible not to notice them.
It was glaring that the town is undergoing a tectonic change and the public mood has fast shifted towards azaadi. The lead speaker, Zia-ul-Haq Nazmi, who, only six months back, had designated the former chief minister Mufti Sayeed as Mard-e-mujahid and mard-e-haq while leading his janaza prayers today censored the current pro-India government as tyrannical. In a direct reference to the PDP leadership, he described them as ‘zalim’ and ‘jabir’ and likened them to the Nimrod. He also called them ‘munafiqeen’ and prayed for their destruction. Three weeks back, he was stopped to lead the janaza prayer of 22 year old student, Aamir Nazir Latoo, who was killed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police without any provocation. Sensing the public mood, Nazmi later publicly apologised for his ‘mistakes’ an oblique reference to his leading Mufti’s Janaza.
Another speaker, Mufti Shabbir Qasmi, stressed on continuing a peaceful struggle but called for a complete social boycott of the ‘friends of Modi’. At this moment, people shouted: ‘Modi ka jo yaar hey, ghaddar hey ghaddar hey’. The PDP supporters in the crowd looked extremely perplexed.
Senior pro-freedom leader Ghulam nabi Sumji also spoke on the occasion. He urged the people to exhibit steadfastness at the “crucial juncture’ of the freedom movement.
Soon after the prayers, a group of youth carrying large green flags with slogans in favour of azaadi took out a march that converged at the recently renovated martyr’s graveyard at the New Colony. As the procession passed by Mufti Sayeed’s fortified ancestral residence, it presented a deserted look with no sight of security.
The place is usually bustling with the Mufti loyalists and supporters. Even at the peak of pro-freedom insurgency, one could see some sporadic presence of human activity. But today it looked frozen in fear of the woken up masses – there was no movement inside the house lending a ghoulish feel to the immediate surroundings. Their concrete security bunkers lain abandoned signifying a power vacuum in changing times. There are reports that Muftis abandoned the town to safer heavens in Jammu and elsewhere as soon as the first public uprising started to file on the streets.
In a separate event, a first of its kind in the town, a large procession of about 2,000 women gathered at the ‘Shaheed Burhan Park’ yards away from the martyr’s graveyard. After the Friday prayers, they later took out a procession shouting pro-freedom slogans and travelled through the town and ended back at the ‘Shaheed Burhan Park.