Fiddling With Faith

At the outset, it looked like a dangerous ploy of dividing the people on communal and sectarian lines was set in motion in a vicious pattern. This year, faith was subjected to intense scrutiny, Saima Bhat reports.

As They Said…

“Ministers have now become prostitutes. Anyone can say anything against them and get away with it.”

Taj Mohi ud din reacted when land grabbing charges were levelled against him.


As if the 23 years of violence and atrocities were not enough, the year 2012 saw the emergence of new forces whose vicious attempts were directed to create sectarian and communal divides by pitting one community against another for narrow political gains.

This year, our faith was put to intense scrutiny; whether it was the destruction of Dastgeer Sahab Shrine in old city’s Khanyar area, or the communal polarisation in the remote Zanskar in Ladakh region, or the clashes that broke out in Srinagar when Muslims across the world were commemorating the sacrifices of the grandsons of Islam’s most revered Prophet (PBUP), it looked as if there were mysterious forces at work making every attempt to further divide the people of the state.

While the Kashmir valley witnessed a deceptive calm, there was crisis of different types that dominated and debilitated the already battered psyche of the people. When it was time for Muezzin to ask the faithful to attend prayers at the 200-year-old shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) in Srinagar, cries of desperation emerged from the vicinity, asking the people to douse the flames that ultimately reduced the ancient structure to debris.

The blaze put the entire Kashmir valley on boil. As the J&K police and the state administration failed to provide answers about what led to the tragedy, rumors started doing rounds that the new breed of followers of puritanical Islam who were against the pluralistic traditions followed by the large majority in Kashmir valley were behind the tragedy.

The state doled out a number of versions on what caused the fire but, in absence of any concrete evidence, the people smelled conspiracy. There was other argument; that some people wearing ‘green headgears’ had stayed at the shrine overnight and left before dawn when the fire broke out.

While the dust raised by the mysterious blaze at Dastageer Sahab’s shrine lingered on, a 600-year-old shrine of a local saint, Baba Hanif-ud-Din, in Rathsun, Budgam was destroyed in a similar fire. Unidentified people attacked another shrine in Tral but it survived. All this, it appeared, was done to divide Kashmiris on sectarian grounds, to challenge their age old practices of belief and faith.

Burning of shrines and mosques were not isolated cases. These incidents were preceded by a sequence of carefully planned attacks. On March 17, 2012, Sufi scholar, Peer Jalal ud Din, a resident of Batmaloo, Srinagar was shot near his house. He was critical for many days. It didn’t stop there. On August 6, a boy, Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Sendbal, Ganderbal, was killed. The reason given for his death was that he was following a religious ideology while his killers belonged to another.

Far away in the Buddhist desert of Ladakh, six Buddhist families converted to Islam, apparently without coercion. But the Buddhist community claimed that they were converted by force. Their apprehensions were put rest when the converts spoke to media but the situation flared up and the area was placed under undeclared curfew when the Buddhists started attacking Muslims, who live in minority in Ladakh.

Again, this was not something which had emerged out of nothing. Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association (HBCA) had written a letter, much before the clashes erupted in Zanskar, to union home minister about the conversion issue. While the state administration was aware of the looming crisis, it did very little to protect its citizens in the remote part of the state. Presently, when the situation is more or less clam in Zanskar, HBCA has again written a letter to home ministry about a new crisis.

The communal tension in Zanskar was followed by clashes in south Kashmir’s Khanba where two groups of Hanfi and Wahabis came on streets following dispute over a loudspeaker in a local mosque in which 11 people were injured. The state acted swiftly and put the area under curfew. Normalcy was restored.

The recent crisis in Srinagar’s old city in the month of Muharram was the proverbial last nail in coffin. While the people belonging to Shia sect were protesting against a blasphemous, Chinese shoe, the Sunnis living in the area staged protest over arbitrary detention of youth. The state conveniently termed the clashes as ‘sectarian.’ Curfew, like always, did the trick, and normalcy was restored, till it flares up again!


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