The historic Jamia Masjid in south Kashmir's Shopian district has become another 'symbol of siege' as authorities have disallowed Friday congregational prayers there for the past 18 weeks triggering massive resentment.
Pertinently, Jamia Masjid Shopian becomes second largest central Masjid after Jamia Masjid Srinagar, where authorities have not allowed Friday congregational prayers since July 8.
Jamia Masjid Shopian resembles the Jamia Masjid Srinagar not only in structure but also in fate. It is believed the grand Masjid in Shopian was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgeer in 17th century and has been a major attraction for centuries together. Mughals, used the place as a resting point besides offering prayers there.
Residents said no Friday prayers have been allowed in the Masjid since July 8, the day when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani died. "On every Friday, authorities seal all the roads leading to the Masjid. This is the direct interference into the religious affairs," said Imtiyaz Ahmed, a local resident of Shopian. He said that for the consecutive 18 weeks, there have been no Friday prayers at the central Masjid.
An elderly, Ghulam Mohiduin said that in his 70-years of life, he had never seen ban on Friday prayers at the Shopian Jamia Masjid. "Even in early 90's, we used to pray on Fridays there. In a Muslim majority Kashmir, we see ban on Friday prayers. Our religious sentiments get hurt when there are no prayers at the two major Jamia Masjids of Kashmir—Jamia Masjid Srinagar and Jamia Masjid Shopian," he said.
Many youth expressed strong resentment against the decision of authorities to ban Friday congregational prayers at the historic Masjid. "We will not tolerate it any more. We have decided to break the restrictions and reach the Masjid to offer Friday prayers there on the next Friday," a group of youth told Greater Kashmir.
The Deputy Commissioner Shopian Ghulam Muhammad Dar said that it was on the request of elderly locals of Shopian that authorities disallowed Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid. "Some locals of the area urged us not to allow Friday prayers citing law and order problems. Except Fridays, there is no ban on offering any prayer at the Masjid. We are planning to allow the people to offer Friday prayers at the Masjid on the coming Friday," Dar told Greater Kashmir.
However, Imam of the Jamia Masjid Shopian Moulvi Rizwan Ahmed said he has neither met nor talked to DC Shopian over phone on any issue pertaining to the banning of Friday prayers. "Whenever I try to leave for offering Friday prayers at the Jamia, forces including police and paramilitary forces personnel prevent me. We were not able to offer Friday prayers at the Jamia for the past 18 weeks due to restrictions and curbs placed by the authorities," he said.
Ahmed said that by preventing people from discharging their religious obligations, authorities have directly interfered into the religious affairs of masses.
Pertinently, Shopian district had been on the fore front of the ongoing agitation triggered by Burhan's killing. At least ten people including a young girl were killed in force's action in Shopian district alone.