Niloofar Qureshi

Sectarian Amity: Killing the Factional ‘Beast’

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With three arson attempts on religious places in Srinagar during the last one month, it is clear that these aren’t random attacks. And since all these attacks have been directed against the religious places of one community only, it’s also evident that that the same have been carried out with the specific intention of creating a sectarian divide in Kashmir. However, thanks to the close bonding between communities and timely intervention by Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), which is the most influential conglomerate of religious organisations in Kashmir, a possible sectarian flareup has been averted. However, we cannot let down our guards because it appears that those attempting to drive a wedge between the two communities are not likely to give up trying to do so.

Those behind these sacrilegious attacks had planned these very well by taking full advantage of covid19 lockdown to ensure that since the people would be indoors at night, the assailants didn’t have to worry about being caught. The arsonists must have also thought that by throwing fire bombs in the middle of the night, the flames would engulf the site and make the fire uncontrollable by the time firefighters and locals were able to start dousing it. The assailants had also done their homework well by choosing targets that would have certainly instigated community members-Masjid Imam Ali in Bota Kadal, the Al Zahra Islamic Centre in Habbakadal and now on Aastaana Bab-ul-Hawaij at Chhatabal housing a priceless manuscript of Holy Quran written by Imam Musa (AS) and brought from Iran by Syed Haider Sultan Kalandar Maskir in 1267AD.

Whenever there was an attempt to create sectarian disharmony in Kashmir, the MMU has been appealing to the public not to get carried away. However, what is notable this time is that it hasn’t washed off its hands by accusing government forces or intelligence agencies for attempting to create sectarian animosity. This is a welcome step and needs to be lauded because any attempt to shift the blame for such reprehensible acts from our own people gives a ‘clean-chit’ to those anti-social and criminal elements amongst us who are bent on disturbing peace within Kashmiri society. Now that the MMU has taken the bold step of setting our own house in order rather than blaming outsiders for dividing society on sectarian lines, those who have sectarian prejudices and evil designs cannot escape.

Certain fundamentalist terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and Islamic State (IS) have been showing renewed interests in Kashmir and waging ‘jihad’ against the Indian government. Both the Hurriyat leadershipand United Jihad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin have declared that there is no place or requirement of such groups in Kashmir. Yet, both Al Qaida and IS have announced establishment of their affiliates in Kashmir; the former being represented by Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH) and the latter by Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir (ISJK), Wilaya of Hind (WoH). And though New Delhi and J&K police may deny the existence of any groups who follow fundamentalist Al Qaida or IS ideology, but there are many instances that disprove this view point.

Draping the dead body of a militant with the flag of Pakistan is an old practice in Kashmir but this didn’t happen during the funeral of Parimpora, Srinagar resident Mugees Mir of Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM) in November 2017. During his funeral, the Pakistani flag draped on Mir’s body was removed by mourners and replaced with IS flag, a clear sign that fundamentalism was spreading. Unfortunately, neither Hurriyat nor UJC chief or MMU condemned this unhealthy trend. On March 11, 2018, Eesa Fazili, a resident of Soura, Srinagar who was killed in a gunfight with security forces was also draped in IS flag.

While MMU was either silent on these clear signs of growing fundamentalism in Kashmir or blaming others for creating sectarian animosity, the real reason behind sectarian intolerance is the steady build-up of fundamentalist ideology. However, MMU’s current approach of facing this burning issue rather than deflecting it or pushing it under the carpet is a very encouraging development, because if sectarian harmony has to be maintained, then the factional ‘beast’ within our society has to be killed!

– Based in New Delhi, the author can be reached at [email protected]

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