February 22, 2024

MOON Desk: Confined to his Srinagar residence for more than four years, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has decided to wage a legal battle against the Jammu and Kashmir administration over his “arbitrary and illegal” detention.

In a legal notice to J&K’s chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, Mirwaiz, who is also the chief cleric of Kashmir, has threatened to challenge his “unwarranted” detention in court if the administration, which is run directly by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government, doesn’t lift the curbs imposed on him since 2019.

Mirwaiz was put under house arrest along with other mainstream and some separatist leaders of Jammu and Kashmir on August 4, 2019, a day before the Union government introduced the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 as a Bill in parliament for downgrading the erstwhile state into two union territories.

While mainstream political leaders such as National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti were freed within months after J&K lost its statehood, two key Hurriyat hawks – Syed Ali Geelani and M. Ashraf Sehrai – died while in detention.

Several separatist leaders and activists, including JKLF chief Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan, were booked under terrorism charges and shifted to Tihar jail in the national capital. Barring senior Hurriyat leaders Abdul Ghani Bhat and Bilal Gani Lone, who were also affiliated with the Mirwaiz-led APHC, all Hurriyat leaders are presently incarcerated.

J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has consistently maintained that there were no restrictions on Mirwaiz and that “he is free to go wherever he likes”.

However, in the legal notice, Mirwaiz has rejected Sinha’s claims, saying that a “large contingent of security personnel” has been deployed outside his residence in Nigeen locality of Srinagar that “nullifies the aforesaid stand of lieutenant governor which speaks volumes”.

The legal notice, sent by senior advocate Nazir Ahmad Ronga, states that Mirwaiz has been subject to “miseries, mental torture and sense of insecurity” since he was detained, even though he is “known for his integrity and humanity” and “preaches the message of peace & love, strengthening of brotherhood and communal harmony”.

“The unfortunate part is that my client has not been allowed to participate in funeral and burial proceedings of his close relatives & near ones and not only this, he has been prevented to perform and lead Friday congregational prayers which again is the violation of his right to religion,” the legal notice, As the chief cleric of Kashmir, Mirwaiz used to preside over matters of Islamic jurisprudence in Srinagar and he also led Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid, Kashmir’s largest mosque in downtown Srinagar’s Nowhatta, which hosts the biggest congregational prayers on important days in the Islamic calendar.

Mirwaiz has alleged that his house arrest is a “violation of the fundamental and religious rights…guaranteed by the constitution”, according to the legal notice, which has also been marked to LG Sinha, DGP J&K Police Dilbag Singh and SSP Srinagar.

“All this has been done in view of events & episodes post abrogation of Article 370 & 35A which is violative of Article 21 & 25-28 and that requires to be prevented under law. No attempt should be tolerated to fiddle with the sanctity of law which protects everyone equally as all are equal among equals,” the notice states.


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