Indian authorities freed prominent Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, allowing him to preside over Friday prayers in Srinagar, the capital of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), after keeping him under house arrest for four years.
As he addressed the crowd from the pulpit of Srinagar's iconic mosque, the 50-year-old Mirwaiz cried. When the pro-freedom leader gave his first Friday sermon as a free man after four years of house imprisonment, many people also sobbed.
Mirwaiz has been leading demonstrations against Indian authority in the contentious area.
He was detained before India rescinded Kashmir's special status in 2019 ushering in political turbulence in the Himalayan region.
The area lost its statehood, and its unique constitution, and inherited protections for employment and land as a result of the 2019 ruling.
“Senior police officials visited the residence of Mirwaiz on Thursday to inform him that the authorities have decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers,” the mosque management committee said in a statement.
Mirwaiz's release came a few days after the government freed two well-known religious leaders imprisoned under the harsh Public Safety Act, which permits incarceration without charge for up to six months. Moulana Mushtaq Veeri and Moulana Dawoodi reported TRT.
Leaders of the Kashmiri liberation movement, who are either under house arrest or being held by the police, have pledged to continue their fight.
They demand that New Delhi recognise Kashmir as a disputed territory, free political detainees, lift the country's severe emergency regulations, and make a public demilitarisation strategy for Kashmir.
The two South Asian nations have fought three wars since their 1947 partition: in 1948, 1965, and 1971.
For independence or union with Pakistan, certain Kashmiri organisations have been fighting against Indian control.
Despite being spared jail time, Mirwaiz has been held in home detention for the second-longest amount of time, trailing only the late Syed Ali Geelani, an 89-year-old Hurriyat leader who passed away while held in house detention in September 2021.
Kashmir, an area with a plurality of Muslims, is illegally administered by India and fully claimed by both Pakistan and India. Also governed by China is a tiny portion of Kashmir.