IIOJK in focus

India has banned pro-Palestinian protests in IIOJK fearing they could turn into anti-India demos: Report

Islamabad: Indian authorities have barred any protest in solidarity with the people of Palestine in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and asked the Muslim clerics not to mention the Israeli aggression on Gaza in their sermons, says a report citing residents and religious leaders.

The restrictions are part of India’s efforts to curb any form of protest that could turn into demands for ending New Delhi’s rule in the disputed region, said the report by the US-based news agency The Associated Press. They also reflect a shift in India’s foreign policy under populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi away from its long-held support for the Palestinians, it said.

The report said in Kashmir, being quiet is painful for many.

“From the Muslim perspective, Palestine is very dear to us, and we essentially have to raise our voice against the oppression there. But we are forced to be silent,” the report quoted senior leader of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a noted Muslim cleric, as having said. He said he has been put under house arrest each Friday since the start of the war and that Friday prayers have been disallowed at the region’s biggest mosque in Srinagar.

The report said Kashmiris have long shown strong solidarity with the Palestinians and often staged large anti-Israel protests during previous fighting in Gaza. Those protests often turned into street clashes, with demands for an end of India’s rule and dozens of casualties, it added.

The report said in occupied Kashmir, enforced silence is seen not only as violating freedom of expression but also as impinging on religious duty. It said that Kashmiri religious leader, Agha Syed Mohammad Hadi, was not allowed to lead the past three Friday prayers owing to his house arrest on those days. “He said he had wanted to stage a protest rally against “the naked aggression of Israel”, it said, adding that the authorities did not comment on such house arrests.

“Police initially allowed us to condemn Israel’s atrocities inside the mosques. But last Friday they said even speaking (about Palestinians) inside the mosques is not allowed,” Agha Hadi said. “They said we can only pray for Palestine – that too in Arabic, not in local Kashmiri language.”

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