Srinagar: Police on Saturday prevented a team of journalists from meeting Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who has not been allowed to leave his residence since August 4, 2019, his Awami Action Committee said, and dismissed Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s statement the separatist leader was not under house arrest.
The Awami Action Committee said the team of journalists included a BBC reporter who had interviewed the lieutenant governor, and they tried to enter the residence of the Hurriyat leader for an interaction.
“But they were absolutely not allowed by the police and forces present at the gate, which is extremely unfortunate and against democratic values,” the AAC said in a statement.
It said the BBC reporter and several members of electronic and print media had come to Mirwaiz Manzil Nigeen to directly contact/interview the Mirwaiz.
There was no official word on the allegations from the police or the administration so far.
Sinha, while speaking to the BBC, had said the Mirwaiz was not under house arrest and was a free man.
“I will correct it,” he had said when asked about the reasons for the “house arrest” of the Mirwaiz.
“Even in August 2019, he was not booked under the PSA (Public Safety Act). If you go back, there were some incidents…even his (the Mirwaiz) father was killed in an unfortunate way. We have deployed police personnel around him for his protection,” Sinha had said in the interview,” he said.
The Awami Action Committee, however, said on Saturday that just a day after the interview was broadcast the team of journalists was stopped from meeting the Mirwaiz.
The Hurriyat had termed the LG’s statement a “blatant misrepresentation of facts”.
“The Hurriyat Conference expressed amazement on the video statement given to a media agency by the LG of J&K Mr Manoj Sinha, where he refuted that the APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under house detention for the past three years since August 2019… (and) instead the forces vehicles and personnel stationed outside his house are there for his safety,” the Hurriyat had said in a statement on Friday.
Close aides of the Mirwaiz, the chief priest of Kashmir, said the only time the Hurriyat chairman was allowed to leave his residence in the past three years was when he was taken for COVID-19 vaccination.
Even then he was not free to go anywhere on his own. He was taken for vaccination under custody, they said.
The Hurriyat said except for Farooq’s close relatives, no one is allowed to enter his house. “How can these facts be negated and claims of him not being under house arrest made,” it asked.
The separatist amalgam said if the authorities want to release him now, it is welcome “but giving such misleading statements to save face is mischievous”.
Sinha’s statement also drew a sharp reaction from the mainstream political parties including the People’s Conference, which was part of the ruling alliance of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir along with the BJP.
People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone said the LG’s statement does not reflect the reality. “I think LG sahib needs to verify facts. His statements don’t reflect reality. May I humbly state that the tradition of locking up leaders and then denying is an old worn-out tradition. It has been happening for the last 3 decades,” Lone said in a tweet.
Lone had on August 4 called for the release of Umar Farooq.
“Spare a thought for @MirwaizKashmir. He is under continued detention for the last four years. And none of us has talked about him. My apologies. We may differ politically but he inspires us as a religious head. A religious head who spearheaded the forces of moderation,” Lone had tweeted.
National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah also dismissed Sinha’s statement.
“The same way my colleagues were locked in their homes ‘for their own safety’ for months on 4th Aug 2019 and the same way we get trucks parked outside our gates every once in a while, because ‘inputs’ suggest an attack on Gupkar road is imminent,” Abdullah tweeted.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti termed the LG’s claim a “bald-faced lie”.
“Bald faced lie. GOI is simply intolerant of every contrarian opinion. If (the) Mirwaiz isn’t under house arrest, then he should be allowed to discharge his religious duties. Admin should walk the talk by letting him deliver next Friday’s sermon at Jama Masjid,” she said.
The Hurriyat further said it also wants to clear the air on Sinha’s other remarks that its leadership has been playing both sides.
“The Mirwaiz, like his forefathers, has always believed in and supported the fundamental truth of democracy — the peoples’ right to make a choice in their future through non-violent means without fear or favour, and the subsequent belief that this is the road to lasting peace and prosperity for the entire subcontinent.
“The Mirwaiz and his forefathers represented and defended this basic interest of the people of J-K in their engagements with both India and Pakistan and in the course, suffered exile, martyrdom and incarcerations,” the Hurriyat said.
Interestingly, the last tweet on Farooq’s verified Twitter handle dates back to August 4, 2019. PTI