India suppressing prayer leaders of IOK mosques

Srinagar, September 19 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, India is even suppressing prayer leaders (pesh imams) as it has arrested several clerics and is monitoring mosques, sparking concerns of a religious crackdown.

Mohammed Ameen, a prayer leader at Jamia Masjid in Awantipora, Pulwama, was taken away by Indian police in August before Eid-ul-Azha. It was a dark Eid for her 11-year-old daughter, Saeed Mutaiba, as she returned home from a brief vacation at her grandfather’s house and knew about arrest of her father.

She, her mother and her 6-year-old brother have repeatedly visited the police station to appeal for his release but to no avail.

In June, the police arrested a cleric in Kupwara district. In March, two imams in Pulwama were arrested. The head of a religious body was denied a passport. Since August 5, policemen in plainclothes are also recording the Juma sermons, law enforcement officials concede. On Eid, Jamia Masjid and the Hazratbal Shrine – two of Kashmir’s most iconic Muslim religious places – were shut.

Donations made to Baitulmal, the charity fund in mosques, are being monitored. Police are asking clerics to tell details of relatives. Their bank accounts are being scrutinized, officials say.

Others, like Jamia Masjid imam Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been detained multiple times over the past three decades. But earlier Indian governments have tried to avoid the impression that they’re against religious bodies.

This February though, India banned the Jamaat-e-Islami. And now, notwithstanding ideological affiliations, all imams and mosques are under vigil. In September, religious processions for Muharram were banned in Kashmir.

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