House Arrest Ends: Hurriyat’s Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Walks Free

Prominent Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has been released from his house arrest that lasted four years in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). This development comes after his detention in 2019, which coincided with India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status, leading to political unrest in the region.

Following his release, Mirwaiz was permitted to lead Friday prayers in Srinagar, the main city of the disputed territory. The 50-year-old leader was visibly moved as he addressed the congregation from the pulpit of a historic mosque in Srinagar. His return to public life was met with tears of joy from numerous supporters who had eagerly awaited his release.

During his years of imprisonment, Mirwaiz played a crucial role in organising protests against Indian governance in the contested region. His arrest was concurrent with India’s decision to strip Kashmir of its statehood, separate constitution, and longstanding land and job protections.

The decision to release Mirwaiz was conveyed to him by senior police officials, who visited his residence and informed him of the authorities’ decision to end his house detention and permit him to attend Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid, a significant mosque in Srinagar.

This development comes shortly after the government released two other prominent religious leaders, Moulana Mushtaq Veeri and Moulana Dawoodi, from detention under the Public Safety Act, a law that allows for detentions without trial for up to six months.

While Mirwaiz’s release marks a positive step, many Kashmiri separatist leaders, several of whom remain under house arrest or in police custody, remain committed to their cause. They demand that New Delhi recognise Kashmir as a disputed region, release political prisoners, repeal stringent emergency laws, and outline a plan for the demilitarisation of Kashmir.

The disputed Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region, is illegally occupied by India. A small portion of Kashmir is also under Chinese administration. Since their partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have engaged in three wars over the territory. Some Kashmiri groups continue to resist Indian rule, seeking either independence or reunification with Pakistan.

While Mirwaiz’s release offers a glimmer of hope for Kashmir’s future, his extended period of house arrest ranks second only to the late Syed Ali Geelani, an 89-year-old Hurriyat leader who passed away while under house detention in September 2021.

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