22 September 2023 The Indian government freed Kashmiri chief cleric and Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Friday after more than four years of house arrest. The 50-year-old was detained along with other political leaders and thousands of residents when the government cancelled held Kashmir’s constitutional semi-autonomy and imposed federal rule in 2019.
A months-long internet shutdown followed as India bolstered its armed forces in the region to contain protests. Most detainees were subsequently released, but Mirwaiz remained unable to leave his residence, down the street from his Jamia Masjid mosque in Srinagar.
Thousands of worshippers gathered to see him lead Friday prayers for the first time in 218 weeks, with women showering him with sweets and religious slogans resounding around the 14th-century building.
Last week, a court asked authorities to explain his continued detention and he told the crowd that police informed him on Thursday that officials had decided to release him. “This period of my house arrest and separation from my people has been the most painful for me since my father’s death,” he said, breaking down.