SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian authorities released a key Muslim cleric after four years of house arrest and allowed him to lead Friday prayers in Srinagar, the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to mosque authorities.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been spearheading protests against Indian rule in the disputed region. He was detained ahead of India revoking Kashmir's special status in 2019 and throwing the Himalayan territory into political uncertainty.
The 2019 decision stripped the region of statehood, its separate constitution and inherited protections on land and jobs.
“Senior police officials visited the residence of Mirwaiz on Thursday to inform him that the authorities have decided to release him from house detention and allow him to go to Jamia Masjid for Friday prayers,” the mosque management committee said in a statement.
Kashmiri separatist leaders, many of them either under house arrest or in police detention, have vowed to continue their struggle and refuse to participate in any dialogue. They want New Delhi to accept Kashmir as a disputed region, release political prisoners, revoke harsh emergency laws and announce a plan for Kashmir's demilitarization.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan since British colonialists granted them independence in 1947 and both claim the region in its entirety. They have fought two wars over its control.