Seven Kashmiri Muslim students were arrested by India for allegedly not supporting India’s cricket team…
On 22nd April, India decided not to allow Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at the historic Jamia mosque in Srinagar. This is the fourth year in a row that the Eid prayer was disallowed by India in the mosque that has been central to the religious life of the Kashmiris for centuries.
A large gathering of worshippers who had made their way to the mosque were sent back by the heavy military personnel outside the mosque. The Imam and chief-preacher of the mosque, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also remained under detention at his house. He has been under house-arrest since August of 2019.
This denial of religious freedom to Kashmiri Muslims came a few days after the Indian government announced the extension of a Hindu religious pilgrimage in Kashmir, known as Amarnath Yatra, from 43 days to 60 days. The Yatra shall commence in the month of June and end towards the end of August. Thousands of Hindus shall make their way to the valley for the Yatra. The Yatra is used by the Hindu nationalist government as a stick with which to beat the local Kashmiri Muslim population. As one Kashmiri writer has succinctly stated,
The yatra takes place simultaneously to intense police and paramilitary crackdowns to muzzle the Kashmiri population, particularly those agitating for Kashmiri right to self-determination. The government regularly surveills the Kashmiri population and imprison political dissidents, activists, and academics (during the Yatra). Ordinary Kashmiris also face the repressive state apparatus, and live under the constant threat of violence, incarceration and humiliation. Hundreds of Kashmiri youth, many in their early teens, who are seen as potential street organizers, are constantly on police radar. They are often apprehended, incarcerated and charged with draconian laws, like the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to keep them in jail without trial for months for little to no cause. Those who are not jailed are either restricted from moving from their localities or kept under round-the-clock house arrest. Strict restrictions are imposed and public spaces cordoned off to preempt public meetings and rallies. While the Hindu yatris and the visitors are able to travel freely within Kashmir, the local Kashmiri Muslim population is often prevented from accessing mosques and other religious sites.
As such, the Yatra is also used by the Hindutva nationalists to project Kashmir as the natural part of the Hindu sacred geography.
The denial of religious rights, such as gathering on Eid, to Kashmiri Muslims, and the protection of the religious activities of the Hindu population, on the other hand, reflects the Islamophobia and Hindutva that is integral to India’s rule in Kashmir.