Srinagar/ Baramulla: No Friday congregational prayers were held anywhere in Kashmir as the government and religious organisations cancelled the congregations in view of one death from coronavirus and 14 positive cases, including of an 8-month-old infant, in the valley.
Most people didn’t move out of their homes for prayers after early announcements from local mosques cautioned people not to come to mosques for prayers.
The muezzins only gave the call to Adhaan (prayer) and there was no khutba or sermon delivered in the mosques.
“For the first time, the mosques were so quiet,” Mushtaq Ahmed of Habak, Srinagar, said.
On Thursday, the Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Nasir-ul-Islam, had asked all religious heads to suspend prayers in all mosques and shrines in Kashmir in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Grand Mufti said that in view of the opinion of health specialists, religious scholars, and other experts, it had become imperative to call off the prayers at mosques and shrines.
“People can pray at home in circumstances when our religion allows it. There is no need to go to mosques till the situation gets normal,” the Grand Mufti said.
Government spokesman Rohit Kansal on Friday tweeted that all district commissioners and police officers have been strictly asked to caution religious leaders not to call any gatherings.
“DCs and SPs advised to strictly caution all religious leaders NOT to call any gatherings. Public gatherings a major source of social contact and spread of the virus,” Kansal tweeted.
One of the members of the Jamia Masjid Committee, Srinagar, told Kashmir Reader that this was the first time in Kashmir that Friday congregational prayers had been suspended for reasons of an epidemic. He said the decision was taken on board with different socio-religious organisations.
The Srinagar district administration had on Thursday ordered closure of all religious institutions, including gurudwaras, shrines and mosques, and had appealed to the management committees of all places of worship and to all residents of Jammu and Kashmir to cooperate.
The first case of coronavirus in Kashmir was reported on March 18, after which religious leaders had suggested that elderly and sick people should remain home and not come out for Friday prayers.
With the cases rising at an alarming rate since then, religious bodies and heads of prominent mosques have now decided to suspend the prayers altogether.
In all the three districts of north Kashmir, Friday prayers were not held. In Baramulla, Imams and heads of Masjid committees on Thursday announced that all mosques will be closed for Friday prayers to avoid public gathering and people were asked to pray at their homes.
In Kupwara, reports said that no Friday prayers were held anywhere and people offered midday prayers at their homes and followed government orders.
Similarly in Bandipora district, religions officials and Masjid committees had already announced that Friday prayers will not be held in mosques. Only Azaans were recited from the mosques.
Reports reached from a few areas that some people offered joint prayers at a few places. However, officials and other sources could not confirm such reports.
Locals said that they have faced worse situations in Kashmir in the past three decades, but Friday prayers were held in every situation.
A number of police and CRPF teams were deployed by the district administrations near all prominent mosques to prevent public gatherings. Many personnel were also deployed in civvies to caution people to maintain “social distance”.
Meanwhile, police and health officials called several people throughout the day in many areas of north Kashmir to identify people who had not reported their travel history. Officials also appealed to the general public to come forward and report such persons to the administration so that medical tests can be conducted.
In border town Uri, four more residents affiliated with the Tablighi Jamaat and suspected of Covid-19 were referred to the Government Medical College (GMC) Baramulla on Friday. Officials said that the four persons had travel history and were in close contact with the infected person who passed away on Thursday morning. The SDM Uri again issued a fresh notice asking all the people who have come from outside the valley and whose medical screenings have been conducted by doctors at SDH Uri to go for 14 days of home quarantine.
“It is the responsibility of all residents that they should not meet such people and not let them move out. Further, if any person is hiding without proper screening, people are requested to inform the administration,” read the notices issued by the SDM.
(With inputs from Mushtaq Ahmad)