In blatant violation of fundamental rights and sanctity of religious places Indian Army soldiers entered a grand mosque in Pulwama, vandalized it before forcing the muazzin along worshipers to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans in the mosque’s on loudspeakers in Zadoora of the area of the district. The incident triggered strong anti-protest demonstrations in the area.
The incident, which took place, the other day, triggered massive outrage with civil society activists and political leaders terming it a violation of religious freedom and an assault on the sanctity of religious places of Muslims.
Locals of Zadoora told the media that the incident took place in the intervening night of Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, at around 1:30 am when a group of soldiers from the Indian Army’s 50 Rashtriya Rifles arrived in the village. The soldiers were accompanied by an unidentified officer.
“While the officer was sitting on the bonnet of one of the vehicles, the soldiers asked me to come out. I thought that they were looking for some suspects in the village,” said Mohammad Altaf Butt, who lives in Zadoora.
Butt, who is the chairman of Zadoora Civil Society, said that the soldiers told him that a new team has been posted in the area and they were carrying out a mock drill in the village to teach the recruits how counterinsurgency operations were undertaken.
“I told them that the operation could have been carried out during the day also and it was wrong to disturb villagers in the middle of the night,” Butt said, adding that the villagers were kept awake till the break of dawn.
Locals said that during the ‘operation’, soldiers detained at least 10 teenagers of the village, five of whom were beaten up, including Butt’s son, Javed Ahmad. “They used a belt and beat him repeatedly. His back suffered bruises,” Butt said, showing a photograph of his son, purportedly taken after the assault.
At the crack of dawn, when a local muazzin went inside the mosque to issue the call for prayers (azaan), Butt said, the Army soldiers followed him. “In the middle of the azaan, the soldiers forced him to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans,” said Butt.
“The soldiers forced the detained youngsters to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans in chorus behind him also,” Butt said.
Local said the Army also vandalised Jamia Masjid Zadoora, the largest mosque in this south Kashmir village, where ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans were also chanted over loudspeaker.
As the news of the assault spread on Saturday morning, agitated villagers came out of their homes and started shouting slogans against the Army.
The situation was brought under control after the intervention of the civil and police administration.
The incident in Zadoora took place at a time when Indian Home Minister Amit Shah was visiting occupied Jammu and Kashmir to review the security situation in the run up to the Amarnath Yatra which is set to begin next month with more than five lakh pilgrims expected to undertake the annual pilgrimage this year.
A sections of local media which reported the incident said that the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based spokesperson and Kashmir Valley’s police chief Vijay Kumar failed to respond when asked for comments. A senior police officer, however, said that an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain facts.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti demanded a probe into the gruesome incident.
Omar tweeted, “Reports of security force personnel entering a mosque in Zadoora in Pulwama are deeply distressing.”
Disclaimer: Indian army soldiers enter Pulwama mosque, force worshipers to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ on loudspeakers - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view