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India released Kashmiri separatist leader after four years

India’s government on Friday released Kashmir’s top Muslim cleric and influential separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq after more than four years of house arrest, AFP reported.

The 50-year-old man was detained along with other political leaders and thousands of residents as the government cancelled the Muslim-majority region’s constitutional semi-autonomy and imposed federal rule in 2019.

Strengthened  armed forces in the region had to turn off the Internet for many months to contain the protests.

Most of those detained were later released, but Mirwaiz remained under house arrest. On Thursday, police informed authorities 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.

The mosque was a focal point of separatist politics and anti-India protests.

“God willing, you might think our spirit is low. No, our spirit is high.”

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with both countries claiming the entire Himalayan territory and fighting two wars over it. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting the rebels, but Pakistan denies the allegations.

Heightened security measures, including police and counter-insurgency units, were deployed around the mosque on Friday.

Our beloved and our king of hope has returned to this mosque after so long. How can I not be weeping with joy?

These were the words of regular worshipper Bashir Ahmed.

Since the introduction of direct rule, the authorities have restricted media freedom and public protests. Actions aimed at ensuring “peace and prosperity” in the region also allowed Indians from other places to buy land and apply for government positions in the territory.

Armed clashes between Indian soldiers and insurgents demanding Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan have significantly decreased.

However, there was a clash this month that killed at least 14 people, including eight security personnel.


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