SRINAGAR: The Srinagar-based Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also chairman of a moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), on Friday declared that “the voice in favour of truth, justice and Kashmir’s independence (Azadi) will continue to emanate” from Jamia Masjid Srinagar’s pulpit, no matter what.”

Visibly angry Mirwaiz took a dig at the state government and law-enforcing authorities while accusing them of “stopping youth from going to Jamia Masjid”.

The resistance leader warned the authorities and unnamed agencies to “desist from nefarious designs to challenge the centrality of the historic mosque or to weaken its significance.”

Umar Farooq, one of the three important leaders of Kashmir’s Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), accused the government forces and agencies of hatching conspiracies aimed at “silencing the Jamia pulpit”.

“This pulpit will never fall silent. The Jamia mimbar (pulpit) will continue to speak truth and be on the side of justice. All conspiracies hatched by the government and its agencies will fail and they are unacceptable to us,” he said.

“Repeatedly, the government imposes restrictions in and around Shehr-e-Khaas (downtown Srinagar), especially on Fridays. Sad, very sad (Afsoos, Sud afsoos),” he said amidst passionate sloganeering from the worshipers present inside the central mosque.

He also alleged that the youth are being stopped, asked to come down from the buses and motorbikes and asked questions ‘where are you going’ with the aim to harass them and to desist them from gathering at the mosque for Friday congregation.

“The more they will harass people, the more you should come in large numbers to be at the Jamia,” he said in his mandatory Friday sermon while the people nodded in agreement saying “zaroor”.

Amid slogans like “yeh mulk hamara hai, iska faisla hum karenge (Kashmir is our nation, only we will decide its fate) and hum kya chahte, aazadi (we want freedom), Mirwaiz Umar warned the government not to play with fire by attempting “to desecrate the sanctity of the mosque”.

Last Friday, on 25 May, the bone chilling videos showed blood splattered on the floor of Jamia Masjid and pictures captured the moment when tear gas shells hit the mosque’s rooftop emanating black smoke.

In one of the videos of 30-second duration, a group of elderly Kashmiri women worshippers inside the mosque were seen covering their faces with a piece of cloth or veil, coughing profusely, running for cover in panic and reciting verses from Quran as the last refuge while the male worshippers, including young and old too could be seen running for their lives with slippers and shoes in one hand and handkerchiefs in another, and some falling on the floor in the process.

Greater Kashmir, a local daily published from Srinagar, reported that at least fifty (50) persons including women worshippers were injured after government forces fired tear gas shells and pellets at civilian protesters.

The number of injured later raised to 70.

Quoting a doctor at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar, the newspaper said that “fifteen youth were received with pellet injuries.”

Shahr-e-Khaas Coordination Committee had condemned the state violence and called for a day-long shutdown against this last Saturday.

At that time, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a tweet had alleged: “Heavy deployment of Govt forces around #JamaMasjid even in this holy month leading to tension & agitation. Dozens of civilians injured after forces resorted to pellet & teargas shelling! large number of people unable to come out of the mosque. Condemn the deployment and forces action.”

Photograph: Basit Zargar