No congregational prayers were offered at Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid – the grand mosque of Kashmir for the 14th consecutive Friday.
Last Friday Auqaf Jamia Masjid announced that prayers will be offered after getting green signal from administration.
Eyewitnesses said that the prayers were not offered as authorities had locked the main gate of the mosque with armed forces personnel deployed in front of it.
The Anjuman Aquaf Jamia Masjid lamented that despite the fact worshippers are fully adhering to COVID-19 SOPs, the prayers at the largest place of worship in Kashmir were not being allowed for the last Seven Fridays.
One of the staff members from Aquaf added that “Our own staff is more than that. How can we allow just 25 people inside,?” he said, adding it is not possible and that the prayers will not be held today.
Earlier, shrines and mosques were shut due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the valley. However, the congregational prayers were allowed at Jamia Masjid after four months as it had remained off-limits for prayers due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, people alleged that the ‘dual policy’ adopted by administration is confusing as on one hand it has closed worship places and are yet to reopen educational institutions while on the other hand, tourist resorts are open and the administration and political parties are holding functions, Sports tournaments and other melas are being held in the valley.
“It’s ironic that on one hand all concerns regarding Covid are being ignored when it comes to asking people to participate in official functions while restrictions are being imposed on Friday prayers and worship in central mosques, shrines and imambaras where Covid SOPs are being fully followed,” one of the devotee said.
Mohsin Ahmad,27, who lives in Rajouri kadal, a neighbourhood close to the mosque, said the authorities considered congregation of Kashmiris “a threat”.
“Each and every time the only target is Jamia, being the largest mosque in a Muslim-majority place, it is placed under curbs for months together now,” Ahmad told.
“The right to practise our religion is guaranteed by the constitution. But it is being violated in Kashmir again and again.”
“Earlier, the pretext of pandemic was employed to prevent Muslims from offering Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid. It stands completely exposed today. It is extremely unfortunate and disdainful of the authorities to disallow Muslims of the Valley from praying at the central mosque,” said another female devotee.
“The bliss in praying at the Jamia Masjid is hard to feel anywhere else. I miss being there,” she added.
Various political parties have asked for immediate opening of all the religious places including Dargah Hazratbal and Jamia Masjid Srinagar for devotees that have been closed for Friday prayers for long.