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Altaf Bukhari offers prayers inside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid

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Says ‘credit for peace goes to people’

Srinagar: A day after the National Conference organised a massive rally in the downtown city, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari Monday became the first mainstream politician in three decades to offer prayers at the historic Jama Masjid, once considered a citadel of separatist politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

Bukhari, who formed his party after the abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, held a roadshow, which started from the revered shrine of Dastgeer Saheb this morning, and later went to the mosque.

Accompanied by Mohammad Ashraf Mir, the Apni Party candidate for the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, Bukhari and his entourage offered prayers at the 14th century mosque in the Nowhatta area of the city from where Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq used to deliver the Friday sermons.

There was a minor incident of stone-pelting on one of the cars travelling with Bukhari in Nowhatta area but the party sought to downplay it.

Asked about his visit to Kashmir’s grand old mosque, Bukhari said he had come to offer voluntary prayers at the mosque.

“The credit for peace goes to people. No doubt the administration of the day also makes efforts but in the end, it is the people who do it,” he added.

Bukhari, who was campaigning for Mir in downtown Srinagar, said that it was wrong to depict the Jamia Masjid as the place for mobilization of election boycott in Kashmir.

“It was not a boycott mobilisation. Somewhere the pride or esteem of the people was hurt which led to such things in the past. Vote is a sacred right and people should give their votes to the candidate they feel will represent them better in Parliament,” Bukhari told reporters.

Once a hunting ground for terrorists, the downtown Srinagar is witnessing a vibrant political revival.

The visit of Apni Party leaders comes a day after the National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah held a massive rally in the neighbouring Hawal locality of the downtown.

The Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency goes to polls on May 13. Mir, National Conference leader Aga Ruhullah and PDP youth president Waheed Para are locked in a triangular contest for the prestigious seat.

The former minister hit out at the three sitting Lok Sabha members from Kashmir — National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone — for their performance in the Parliament over the past five years.

“What have these three MPs done? According to reports, there are 1,400 persons behind bars and these sitting MPs still have one month left in their tenure. If they manage to get only 10 per cent of the jailed youth released, I will ask my candidate to sit down and people can vote for them (National Conference),” he said.

Jamia Masjid has been seen as the epicentre of separatist politics in Kashmir since 1990. Stone-pelting on the security forces after Friday congregational prayers was a regular feature in the area for almost three decades.

However, after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, the mosque was locked down for a long period and the Hurriyat Conference chairman was not allowed to offer prayers there for more than four years.

Although the Mirwaiz was released from house arrest in September last year, the authorities sometimes disallow Friday prayers due to apprehensions of law and order problems.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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