Mirwaiz free, insists LG Manoj Sinha, but he cannot meet the media
Kashmiris recall PM Modi’s barefaced denial of Chinese intrusion into Indian territory after Galwan
Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s contentious claim in an interview to BBC Hindi last Friday, denying that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was under detention or had been charged with any offence, has sparked both amusement and anger. The Mirwaiz has been ‘under house arrest’ since August 4, 2019 and has not led Friday prayers since then or seen outside his house.
But the LG claimed that the Mirwaiz was not in detention, faced no charges and that even in 2019 the Public Safety Act was not invoked against him. The statement is being compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s equally brazen statement that there was no Chinese incursion in Ladakh in 2020.
The statement of the LG can be heard in this clip:
Sinha claimed that security personnel deployed outside Mirwaiz’s residence were meant for his protection. “Even in 2019, the Mirwaiz wasn’t booked under PSA (Public Safety Act). He wasn’t kept in detention. If you go back, some incidents happened in the past, even the father of Umar Farooq was killed. We have kept policemen around him for his safety. He should decide what he wants,” the LG is heard telling the interviewer.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah sarcastically tweeted, “The same way my colleagues were locked in their homes “for their own safety” for months on 4th Aug 2019 & the same way we get trucks parked outside our gates every once in a while, because “inputs” suggest an attack on Gupkar road is imminent”.
While the LG’s claim led the media to rush to the upscale Nigeen area in Srinagar to speak to the Mirwaiz, the newsmen were turned away by security forces on duty. Nobody was allowed to meet the Mirwaiz without permission of the DSP Sahib or the DGP, they were told. Other media teams also made unsuccessful attempts to meet the Mirwaiz besides the BBC.
BBC Hindi tweeted this clip to confirm that its team was denied access to the Mirwaiz.
However, the Mirwaiz did speak over the phone to both BBC and other media outlets. The media could themselves see, he said, that he was not free to move out, invite people in or speak to them, he pointed out. To persistent questions put by BBC Hindi why he had not reacted to the LG’s statement through the media, the Mirwaiz claimed that media outlets were under instruction not to carry his statements.
The LG’s office or the DGP of Police have not cleared the air till Tuesday afternoon. If there were no charges against the Mirwaiz and he is not under detention, why is he not being allowed to do his religious duty and lead the Friday prayers, asked the APHC (All Party Hurriyat Conference).
Muzaffar Shah of the APGA (All Party Gupkar Alliance) reacted to the LG’s statement by tweeting, “That is not true LG sahib. This is the same way we were under arrest for 8 months & the govt lying in front of the court that we were staying indoors out of choice. Finally, the court released us & a 10 Cr damage compensation case is underway against the govt for lying before court.” Within days the tweet had been taken down though.
There was outrage among a section of Kashmiris with several voices noting “This is the inconvenient reality of Jammu & Kashmir…This is exactly what Mr Jinnah predicted would happen to the rights of minorities under Hindu majority”.
Trolls were not far behind, with some asking why the BBC team wanted to meet the Mirwaiz. There were abusive trolls as well with one of them tweeting, “Tumhare reporter jo hai , wo ab gayab karne parenge , India me acche nahi lagte ho , Britain ke chamche saale , jaake Europe me apna media house chalao…,” fumed a troll to BBC Hindi.
There were several social media posts that were seemingly supportive of the LG. “Mirwaiz is not in jail. How does his presence on the street help an ordinary Kashmiri. We are fine with the LG govt. our leaders, religious or political, have only fulfilled their coffers. they have no sympathy for us. The present LG is at least sensitive to the issues of masses,” read one.
Several similar messages, the authenticity of which the National Herald has not been able to verify, stated that Kashmiris did not want the Mirwaiz or other Kashmiri politicians; that developments in the last two years had surpassed the development work seen in the past seven decades etc.
As things stand, it is unlikely that the Mirwaiz will be free to lead Friday prayers this week. While he is ‘free’ according to the LG, he apparently is not free enough.