29 years on, scars of ‘Operation Jamia Masjid’ still fresh

It was sunny Friday on 25th August, 1989 when situation took an ugly turn at the historic Jamia Masjid in Downtown here after government forces launched a massive cordon to arrest militants.
29 years on, scars of ‘Operation Jamia Masjid’ still fresh
File Photo

It was sunny Friday on 25th August, 1989 when situation took an ugly turn at the historic Jamia Masjid in Downtown here after government forces launched a massive cordon to arrest militants.

"Militancy in Kashmir was only a year and a half old and Downtown was considered as the safe haven for them due to mass support by the people," said Javid Ahmad Mir, former commander of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the first militant outfit of Kashmir.

"We used to show up in lanes and by lanes of Downtown to garner support," says Mir who is presently chairman of JKLF (H).

On the fateful day, people had offered congregational Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid and the then Mirwaiz, Moulvi Muhammad Farooq had delivered his sermon.

"Almost majority of people had left the grand masjid but some 300 odd were still inside," recalls Abdul Majeed Shahani, a resident of Downtown.

He said within minutes, Jamia Masjid was sealed by forces from all corners. "Forces entered the masjid with their boots on while all gates were closed. All the 300 people were held hostages," he recounted.  

A witness said that all 300 people were detained of which 270 were released after a week and 30 were shifted to various prisons including Kathua and Hiranagar.

"The forces even searched the pulpit and ran over the prayer mats. This way they desecrated the Kashmir's spiritual centre," said Abdul Rashid, a resident of Aali Kadal, who was lodged in Hiranagar prison for over a month.

Ghulam Muhammad Zargar, a resident of Rainawari who was among 300 detained people said: "270 people were lodged in Kothibagh and other police stations and released after a week. The rest 30 were shifted outside Kashmir."

Since 25th August, 1989, the Awami Action Committee has been observing this day as anniversary of 'Operation Jamia Masjid' while its members hold demonstrations to condemn the forces' action.

Chairman Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq while commenting on 'Operation Jamia Masjid' said "it was an open aggression against Kashmir's spiritual centre which saw the desecration of the central Jamia Masjid." 

"The operation was an act of revenge by the authorities on the people and leadership of Mirwaiz Molvi Muhammad Farooq as the historic masjid has been the rallying point and central to the sentiments and aspirations of the masses," Mirwaiz said. 

"The pulpit of Jamia Masjid has always been an eyesore for all regimes that have ruled Kashmir by force, as it has highlighted the miseries and oppression on people and represents their true aspirations," he said. 

"Despite repeated attempts to silence the voice from the pulpit of the masjid, the podium has and will continue to be the people's true voice, highlighting injustices and repression and striving for achievement of their rights," he said.  

Mirwaiz said that the pulpit of historic masjid represents the concept of Islam as a complete way of life, touching on all aspects that affect humans in their social political and religious sphere.

"As such it will always remain in the forefront of highlighting issues that affect the people most and showing them that path of truth and justice as preached by Islam in the resolution of those issues," he added.

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