The Jamia Masjid of Srinagar is situated at Nowhatta, in the middle of the Old City downtown. It was built by Sultan Sikandar Shah Kashmiri Shahmiri in 1394 AD, while his son Zain-ul-Abidin included its turret in later years. The structure is constructed in the Persian style, although it bears some resemblance to Buddhist pagodas as well. The Jamia Masjid is located in a historical area, and is central to the religio-political life of Srinagar's residents.
The Jamia Masjid has been a hub for Kashmir politics and in more recent years, for the confrontation between Kashmiri youth and security forces. Stone pelting sessions after Friday prayers have become a routine in this area, and for the last two decades, this Grand Mosque area has become the battlefield for clashes between the youth and the forces. Some call this the 'Gaza' of Kashmir. On Fridays, if camerapersons and journalists reach the mosque vicinity, then the police take it as a sign that something is about to happen after the prayers. At times, they force us to leave the area as they fear the presence of cameras incites the youths to pelt stones.
It’s a routine for Nowhatta Police Station and the CRPF party deployed in the area to have long sessions of stone pelting with the youth after Friday prayers. People refer to it by saying, "(a) one day match has started". Cameramen take position to cover the stone-pelting.
Recently a policeman — Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandith — was lynched to death by a group of youth inside the mosque campus.
The mosque has been the platform for the Mirwaiz family for a long time now, and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq can be seen delivering sermons at Jamia Masjid during Friday prayers. The government now frequently bans Friday prayers at the mosque, fearing the situation may get out of hand during the stone pelting sessions after the prayers.
The violence outside is in stark contrast to the peaceful interiors of the Jamia Masjid, where (among other sights of interest) a grand fountain flows into a small pool. A look into the world of Jamia Masjid:
All photos by Javeed Shah.
A veiled woman prays at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.