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Kashmir head priest threatens intensified protests

Srinagar, January 15, 2009:

Chairman of moderate faction of Kashmir's separatist amalgam All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq here Thursday threatened to restart intensified protests if the Indian government continued to suppress the religious rights of Kashmiri Muslims.

"The Indian government is cordoning mosques and preventing Kashmiri Muslims from performing their religious duties. It is interference in our religion obligations and won't be tolerated," Mirwaiz said addressing media persons after the conference of Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, a group of clerics, at Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir.

"If the Indian government continues to do so, we'll react with intensified protests," said Mirwaiz, Kashmir's head priest.

Mirwaiz said the recent curbs imposed by the Indian government preventing Friday congregational prayers for seven consecutive weeks at Jamia Masjid was unacceptable and had hurt the religious sentiments of Kashmiri Muslims.

"If the government does not change its attitude of interfering in our religious affairs, Ulemas will issue a joint Fatwa (edict) and launch statewide protests and the Indian government will be held responsible," Mirwaiz said.

Over 70 people were killed, and hundreds injured and arrests in June after the mass uprising following the controversial transfer of land to a Hindu shrine.

The clerics also warned the government not to create hurdles for Kashmir in Hajj pilgrimage by withholding their passports.

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