Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was detained after he attempted to defy restrictions to offer prayers at the historic Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, where Friday prayers have not been held for 16 consecutive weeks.
Mirwaiz, who is also the chief cleric at the mosque, tried to come out of his residence in Nigeen, where he has been under house arrest, but policemen immediately took him into custody.
“He has been lodged in Nigeen police station,” Mirwaiz’s close aide, Shahid-ul-Islam, said.
An official from the Nigeen police station confirmed the development.
Curfew was imposed earlier in the day in sensitive parts of capital Srinagar following Mirwaiz’s announcement on Tuesday to break the Jamia Masjid “siege” at Friday prayers and slammed the government for “not allowing” people to pray in the mosque.
“Not a single soul was allowed to march towards Jamia Masjid,” Islam said.
An official of Nawhatta police station confirmed that no prayers were held at the 15th-century mosque.
Police said that the curfew has been imposed in the core old city areas including Nawhatta, Rainawari, Maharaj Ganj, Khanyar and Safa Kadal. The restrictions were also imposed in volatile Batamaloo.
Separatists have been agitating since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.
People have not been able to offer Friday prayers for weeks in the historic mosque in the Nawhatta area of the state’s summer capital as police and Central Reserve Police Force have imposed restrictions on the movement of people owing to the shutdown and protest calls by separatists.
On Thursday, Mirwaiz accused the government of sabotaging the Jamia Masjid programme and deploying “massive military in and around Jamia Masjid area, sealing all roads lanes and by lanes leading to the mosque, setting up new bunkers in the area and harassing and scaring the people living there”.
The rest of Kashmir, where authorities have not imposed any restrictions, was shut for the 112th day following Wani’s death. Schools, colleges, businesses and public transport have been closed.
As many as 90 people, including two policemen, have lost their lives and over 10,000 have been injured in the ongoing unrest. Around 5,000 security force personnel have also been injured in the clashes. Over 300 people have been booked under stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
In their latest protest programme for the week, the joint separatist leadership have asked people to organise a ‘Freedom’ rally after the Friday prayers where the separatist leadership will address the nation.
They have also asked women and employees to organise rallies on different days during the week. On November 3, a day-long ‘Azadi’ convention has been announced for the villages.