It was an unusual sight to see Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Kashmir’s chief cleric at Jamia Masjid Budgam on Friday, April 24. People from all the four corners of Jammu and Kashmir who had reached the venue were jostling for space at the mosque.
Immediately after concluding the obligatory Friday prayers, I could hear slogans down on the road reciprocated exuberantly by the jubilant crowd. With each passing moment the intensity of sloganeering in favour of Islam, unity and freedom increased with more and more people joining the chorus.
By the time I got down from top floor, the roads were jam packed with people. I could see Mirwaiz atop a Sumo from a distance encircled by the volunteer human escort. I was wonder struck at seeing the dispassionate love for Azaadi among people cutting across all divides, gender and ages. The procession swelled up with each minute and so did the excitement among people till it reached crescendo.
When the procession approached the venue where Mirwaiz was to address the people, women came out and welcomed him in the traditional manner by way of Kashmiri “Rouf” which spiced up the passions.
Finally, Mirwaiz landed on the makeshift dais with his accomplices. He was given a warm welcome by Aga Syed Hassan who also gave the short introductory speech before he handed over the microphone to Mirwaiz. The latter was charged and gave a fiery speech in tune with the expectations of a high voltage atmosphere with people raising vociferous slogans at each important point raised by Mirwaiz during his speech.
He came down heavily on RSS-BJP combine for their overt and covert activities aimed at trampling the genuine aspirations of the people of Kashmir and trying to invade the religious cum cultural identity of Kashmir.
Mirwaiz lashed on Indian national media for mis-interpreting facts about Kashmir. On the pandit resettlement in Kashmir, he declared them an integral part of Kashmir and requested the Pandit community of Kashmir to settle in their respective places of residence and not become an appendage in the hands of RSS-BJP to serve their nefarious designs aimed at tearing apart the social fabric of Kashmir.
In a satirical manner, he requested Mufti Mohammad Saeed not to paint himself in the RSS-BJP colours and reprimanded him that he will be relegated to the dark pages of Kashmir history if he won’t mend his ways and commit some blunder in what seems the last stage of his life. He further declared that in any effort aimed at resolving the Kashmir dispute, the people of Kashmir must be included as a primary party.
These were a few highlights of his pumped up speech which were met with cheers and slogans. And finally when Mirwaiz himself raised a few slogans the response from the crowd was beyond the scope of description.
What made people to listen Mirwaiz Umar Farooq with incredible passion and energy? After all, Mirwaiz had not come to inaugurate a college, hospital, bridge or a Tehsil office. He did not come to distribute cheques among people. He had not come to sanction power transformers or money for public works. He did not come to issue on spot orders for appointments. He did not promise heavens. Yet people who on other day voted in numbers to elect their ‘representatives’, participated in the electoral process and even justified their exercising the franchise, were a part of this show.
The inference drawn was simple. Love for Azaadi is overwhelming, spontaneous and cemented in the collective conscience of Kashmir. The people of Kashmir have long back dreamt of an independent Jammu and Kashmir and despite the vicissitudes of time the yearning for Azaadi has not died down.