Srinagar, December 10 (KMS): The military lockdown has hit the religious freedom of the people in occupied Kashmir and call out five times a day from the minarets of the Jamia Masjid and echo across Srinagar has been silent for nearly four months now as a result of India’s ongoing operation in this Muslim-majority territory.

The New York Times quoting Associated Press report said, “Already one of the most militarized places in the world, last summer India began pouring more troops into its side of Kashmir, and it implemented a military lockdown in which it pressed harsh curbs on civil rights, arrested thousands of people, blocked internet and phone service, and shuttered important mosques.”

The centuries-old Jamia Masjid, made of brick and wood, is one of the oldest in this city of 1.2 million, where 96% of people are Muslim. When it’s open, thousands of people congregate there for prayers.

“The mosque closure is a relentless agony for me and my family,” Romi Jan, a Srinagar resident said. “I can’t tolerate it, but I am helpless.” For years Romi Jan’s mornings would begin with the plaintive call to prayer that rang out from the central mosque in occupied Kashmir’s largest city Srinagar, the newspaper wrote and added that the voice soothed her soul and made her feel closer to God.

“All of this was laying the groundwork for the Hindu nationalist-led government’s Aug. 5 decision to strip Kashmir of its semi autonomous status and remove its statehood, the moves it knew would be met with fury by Kashmiri Muslims, most of whom want independence or unification with Pakistan. The government claimed the restrictions were needed to head off anti-India protests and violence.”

“While some of the conditions have since been eased, some mosques and Muslim shrines in the region either remain shuttered or have had their access limited. Muslims say this is undermining their constitutional right to religious freedom and only deepening anti-India sentiment.”

Romi would take her two children there every day and sit inside the compound while they would play. “I would forget all my miseries there,” she said. Now, when her kids ask why they can’t go to the mosque, she draws a blank face. “I open my window of the house which faces the mosque and show my kids the soldiers that are stationed outside it,” Romi said.

Mohammed Yasin Bangi, the 70-year-old whose voice has called out the prayers at the mosque for the last 55 years, said the current restrictions are the worst he has seen. “During earlier restrictions, we would be sometimes allowed to offer evening prayers. But not even once during this time around,” he said. “The closure of the mosque has robbed me of my peace. I’ve been subjected to spiritual torture.”

Sheikh Showkat Husain, a professor of international law and human rights at the Central University of Kashmir, warned that such a duality in policy sent a clear message that the government no longer remains impartial toward different religions and further alienates the people of Kashmir.

“It no way augers well for any peace,” he said. “Whether it triggers further radicalization or not, it definitely infuriates people about the safety and security of their faith. It can also snowball into a mass mobilization against the state.”

Syed Mohammed Tayib Kamili has been leading annual prayers at Kashmir’s Khanqah Naqashband shrine since 1976. Indian authorities stopped last month’s gathering from taking place. The decision, which was met with anti-India protests, was the first time the prayers had not been held in the shrine’s 399-year history, Kamili said. “They have not only violated constitution,” he said, “but also invited wrath of the divine power.”

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