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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kashmir ‘shrine believers’ challenge radical Islamists from heart of Srinagar

’85-90 pc Valley Muslims have reverence for saints and shrines’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Mar 23: Wittingly or unwittingly timed on “Yaum-e-Pakistan”, a conglomerate of Muslim religious outfits today organized its show of strength at Batmaloo, heart of the congested Capital city. Unfazed by an armed attack on its prominent functionary, Pir Jalal-ud-din, Muttahida Ulema-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat w-al-Jamaat (MUASWJ) sought a thorough investigation into all guerrilla strikes on ‘believers of saints and shrines’.

Close on the heels of two mysterious shootouts at Sarai Bala and Batmaloo, MUASWJ organized a march of its followers in vicinity of the revered shrine of Batmaloo Sahab. Most prominent exponents of this nascent religious movement, including the Karwaan-e-Islami founder Maulana Ghulam Rasool Haami, led the march and later addressed a news conference on the shrine premises. With most of the Valley’s separatist religious and political leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, enjoying an at home at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on occasion of Pakistan’s national day, the green-turban alliance claimed in the heart of Srinagar that 85 to 90 percent of Kashmiri Muslims believed in saints and shrines.

MUASWJ leaders complained that the spiritual leaders believing in saints and shrines were being targeted under a concerted campaign in the Valley. They claimed that all attacks on the moderate religious leaders and spiritual activists, from the one on Qazi Nisar in Anantnag in June 1994 to the latest on Pir Jalal-ud-din in Srinagar, in March 2012, had happened in a chain. The motive, according to them, was to browbeat, terrorise and silence the voice of the shrine believers (Ahl-e-Aetiquaad) in the Valley.

The MUASWJ speakers claimed that Mirwaiz Qazi Nisar of Anantnag, saint Ahad Sahab of Sopore, Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, Maulana Abdul Rashid Dawoodi and now Maulana Jalal-ud-din of Batmaloo had been attacked with guns and grenades on account of their unflinching faith and belief in shrines and spiritual leaders and promotion of this school of thought in Kashmir. They described it “most shocking” that recent terror attack on Jalal-ud-din had happened when he was making preparations for a Meelaad procession (a rally to celebrate the birth day of Prophet Mohammad) in Batmaloo. Jalal-ud-din, who had sustained gunshots on his body, is still under treatment at SKIMS, Soura.

Much-revered saint Ahad Sahab of Sopore, who had a miraculous escape in a grenade attack on him nearly six years back, died natural death in 2010. His followers included senior politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, advocates and judges including a judge of J&K High Court. Several of Maulana Dawoodi’s followers had died and sustained injuries when he came under a fatal grenade attack at Tahab in Pulwama district few years back.

Maulana Haami and Dawoodi, who have established substantial base in the Valley in the last 10 years, are known as the leading proponents of Bareillvi school of thought. Even after a series of guerrilla attacks on them, they have been organizing massive processions and openly challenging the hardliners and all those not believing in spiritual leaders and Muslim shrines. Of late, Government has been providing them support, overtly and covertly, which has made them suspects in the eyes of Valley’s radical separatist and religious leadership.

Hardliners have been publicly condemning the guerrilla attacks on these spiritual leaders and emphasizing that were aimed at dividing the Kashmiri Muslims on sectarian and ideological basis and thus “weakening the freedom struggle”. In his recent reaction, Geelani has condemned the attack on Jalal-ud-din and said that he would have called on him “if not held continuously under house arrest” by Police.

Addressing today’s news conference, Maulana Haami sought thorough investigation into the attack on Jalal-ud-din and demanded that the assailants be unmasked and produced in the “peoples’ court”. He said that Police and the militant outfits should investigate the attack on the pattern of the assassination of Jamiat-e-Ahl-e-Hadith chief Maulana Shaukat Shah and punish the culprits. Haami alleged that certain forces were at work to create the culture of devastation and killings on sectarian basis. He asked the intelligentsia to get together and defeat such elements with complete unity.

Later, the organizers led a rally from the shrine of Sheikh Dawood Batmaloo Sahab. The participants chanted purely religious slogans and avoided reference to Kashmir’s separatist political movement and those dying for “freedom”. Religious processions organized by separatist religious leaders, like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Aga Syed Hassan of Budgam do invariably pay tributes to the “martyrs” and call for Kashmir’s “freedom from India”.


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