The Valley of OddityKashmir
has a number of peculiar institutions. One of them is the office of Mirwaiz
- which literally means head-sermoniser. It is essentially a Kashmiri concept.
Nowhere else in the Islamic world does this institution exist nor does
it wield so much clout. It is claimed that the institution is six hundred
years old and was established soon after the Muslim rule in the Valley.
However, it is not discussed at all in Sir Walter Lawrence's classic The
Vale of Kashmir published in 1895.
Mirwaiz is a religious leader, who also holds a position in the community,
which may be described as, in a significant respect, political. The office
is hereditary but there would seem to be an appointive element in that
the holder is in some manner confirmed by the Government.
present Mirwaiz - Umar Farooq - was appointed at the tender age of seventeen
following the assassination of his father Maulvi Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq
in May 1990, at the hands of terrorists owing allegiance to the Jamaat-i-Islami.
He claims to be the twelfth in the six-hundred-year-long lineage of the Mirwaiz.
1905, the then religious leader of Muslims of the Valley, the Mirwaiz of
Kashmir - Maulvi Rasool Shah - founded in Srinagar an association - the
Anjuman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam - with the object of improving the lot of Kashmiri
Muslims, especially in education. while at the same time ensuring the spread
of pure Islamic doctrine. The Anjuman was not particularly effective but
it established a very important precedent which others could and did exploit.
In 1920s it was dominated by the Kashmiri Muslim religious leader of the
day, the Mirwaiz-i-Kashmir, Maulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah.
that time, another Muslim religious leader was Mirwaiz Hamadani of the
Khanqah-i-Mualla (the shrine sacred to the memory of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani,
the saint who had done much to spread Islam in the Valley in the 14th century).
He and Maulvi Ahmed Ullah Shah used to be at loggerheads as both used to
lay claim to the title of Mirwaiz of Kashmir.
the Khilafat Movement from 1919 onwards began to play a role in the Muslim
nationalist agitation in India, it had little impact in Kashmir. Mirwaiz
Ahmad Ullah Shah opposed the movement. He also advised the Maharaja of
Jammu & Kashmir to arrest the leaders of the agitation in the State.
Yusuf Shah succeeded his uncle in March 1931 as the Mirwaiz-i-Kashmir.
By that time, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah - a young schoolmaster with a post-graduate
degree in Chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University - started emerging on
the political scene. In the beginning he was a protégé of Maulvi Yusuf
Shah. Both of them served terms in the Maharaja's prisons. In 1932, both
of them in tandem with some other youngsters, established the All Jammu
& Kashmir Muslim Conference, which became the main platform for opposition
to the Maharaja. Soon after, they fell apart and the Muslim Conference
faced internal discord.
the middle of 1932 there developed an active, and at times, violent, political
rivalry in Muslim ranks in Srinagar between bands of supporters of Sheikh
Abdullah, the Shers or 'Lions' (after Sheikh Abdullah, who used to be referred
to by his admirers as the 'Lion of Kashmir'), on the one hand and the followers
of Mirwaiz Mohammad Yusuf Shah, the Bakras or 'Goats' (after the beards
sported by Islamic clergy), on the other.
1939, the Muslim Conference was formally dissolved. It was replaced by
the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, which was a body far more
concerned with social and political issues, such as land reform, than with
matters of Islamic theology. In 1941, Maulvi Yusuf Shah with other fundamentalists
revived the Muslim Conference. In 1946, Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference
launched the 'Quit Kashmir' movement. Mirwaiz Yusof Shah opposed it. He
supported the Government calling the Maharaja a shadow of God on earth.
with the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India, Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah
fled to Pak-occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir). He was appointed Education
Minister though English was Latin to him. Later, he rose to become the
third President of Azad Kashmir.
Kashmir, Maulvi Atiqullah, a protege of Sheikh Abdullah, was appointed
as the Mirwaiz. He was the uncie of Maulvi Yusuf Shah. in 1962, Mohammad
Farooq was appointed at the age of eighteen as the Mirwaiz by Bakshi Ghulam
Mohammad - the then Prime Minister of J&K - following the death of
his uncle Maulvi Yusuf Shah in the PoK.
crisis over the theft of the Moe-i-Muqaddas made the young Mirwaiz Farooq
a rallying point in Muslim politics in Srinagar. The old feud between the
families of Mirwaiz and the Sheikh continued. The young Mirwaiz Farooq,
highly ambitious, did not look backward. He was arrested on October 10,
l965 when he became vocal in support of plebiscite in Kashmir.
his support to one leader or the other, one political group or the other
fluctuated from time to time. At one time, he was in the forefront of an
agitation for the release of the Sheikh. At another he was opposing the
Sheikh's accord with Indira Gandni and accused the former of selling Kashmir
for the sake of power. In 1977, Mirwaiz Farooq entered into an alliance
with the Janata Party. In fact, his base was continuously eroding which
he compensated by a high profile public relations exercise. He was successful
in his campaign and became one of the most sought after politician-cum-religious
leaders by the visiting Indian newsmen.
between, he had entered into an alliance with Dr.Farooq Abdullah who inherited
power from his father Sheikh Abdullah. The accord, which was a brief one,
came to be known as Double-Farooq Accord. He used to wield considerable
political and administrative clout.
February 1986, the Union Government asked the State to register a case
against Maulvi Farooq for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation
Act, 1986. The Chief Prosccuting Officer, Srinagar, advised that the case
be registered as it was a fit case for prosecution. Accordingly, a first
information report was registered at the Khanyar police station on July
30, the same year. It took about two-and-a-half years to complete the investigation,
though it was quite simple as most of the documentary evidence had to be
relied upon. However, even after the completion of the investigation and
the finding of the investigating officer that the 'case stood proved' no
prosecution was launched and no further action was taken. The last note
on the file merely recorded that 'higher authorities had to be kept posted'.
The Mirwaiz, who claimed to be the only religious leader of Kashmiri Muslims,
sent his son and daughter to schools run by Christian missionaries, while
himself advocated the teaching in 'Madarsas' for Muslims. Once, when this
was pointed out, he retorted: "I am a modern Maulvi. I teach Quran and
other religious books to my son and daughter at home but do not want to
deprive them of modern education." However. he did not care for the extension
of this modern education to other sons and daughters of other Muslims in
Friday, after noon prayers, he used to deliver 'khutba' - a discourse on
current religious and political happenings. He used to breathe brimstone
and fire in his discourses but the note in Urdu for the local Press used
to be a diluted one, while the tone of the Press note in English, meant
for the national wire agencies and the correspondents of national dailies,
used to be further diluted in a bid to retain the soft attitude of the
Government of India.
Qazi Nisar Ahmed of Anantnag in the Valley claims himself as the Mirwaiz
of Southern Kashmir. This is an institution which started with Qazi Nisar.
However, with the ascendency of the fundamentalist Muslim leadership of
the Jamaat-i-Islami, the hold of Mirwaizs over the people is waning.
wonder, Maulvi Mohammed Farooq was assassinated at the hands of Muslim
fundamentalists who suspected his bona-fides.
a particular community and residents of a region cannot be generalised
as far as the traits in their character are concerned, Kashmiris by and
large, are fond of mongering gossip, exaggeration and sychophancy. A typical
example of this trait is the river boat procession.
1945, when Jawaharlal Nehru along with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Maulana
Abul Kalam Azad attended the session of the National Conference at Sapore
at the invitation of Sheikh Abdullah, they were taken out in a river boat
procession, traditional to Srinagar ceremonials. Nehru's daughter Indira
Gandhi had also accompanied the Congress leaders.
colourful procession starts from upstream Jhelum, near the State Guest
House. Hundreds of decorated 'shikaras' (Kashmiri boats) are collected
for seating the chief guest and other accompanying leaders, forming into
rows along and across the stream. The procession goes down the river through
the many bridges en route. Standing on the banks of the river and from
the windows of the houses, people lustily cheer and greet their guests.
Huge 'doonga' boats and carrier boats are anchored midstream with decorative
arches raised thereupon throughout the length of the river in the capital
city. People are also arranged to shower flowers on the guests from the
the Sheikh-Indira Gandhi accord in 1975, which saw the return of Sheikh
Abdullah to power, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India made
a State visit to Srinagar. Accompanied by her two sons - Rajiv and Sanjay
and their wives - she was treated to a traditional boat procession through
the Jhelum river. Also giving them company were Sheikh Abdullah and Governor
L. K. Jha, and their spouses. The gaudily-painted boat in which Indira
Gandhi was seated, was propelled majestically by thirty-two red-turbaned
oarsmen. The lined-up spectators shouted slogans praising her as a worthy
daughter of Kashmir.
similar welcome had earlier been given to Bulganin and Khrushchev - Soviet
leaders - during their visit to Srinagar in 1955. Soon after the 1983 Assembly
elections in which Dr. Farooq emerged victorious, a grand river boat procession
meandered along the Jhelum in the summer capital city to mark the occasion.
Morarji Desai, who became the Prime Minister of India following the victory
of the Janata Party in 1977 Lok Sabha elections, was enamoured by a welcome
at the residence of Maulvi Mirwaiz Farooq, during his visit to the State
in connection with the approaching Assembly elections. A good number of
women sang welcome songs in his honour. One of the songs in Kashmiri said:
"The Ghazi (victor) from Pakistan is welcome." It seems that none explained
the meaning of the song to Desai who anyway did not believe in nonsense.
tune with their typical character, Kashmiri leaders speak the same thing
in three different manners. One is for the local audience where the Centre
(Govt. of India) is the whipping boy for each and every ill afflicting
the State. As soon as leaders cross the Banihal Pass to enter the Jammu
region, the Centre-bashing becomes subtle while in New Delhi the same leaders
do not lag behind each other in praising the Central and Congress leaders.
on the politics of deception and duplicity, Jagmohan said, "To the flaws
that were inbuilt in the soft and permissive attitude were added the flaws
inherent in the politics of duplicity and deception which became a characteristic
feature of the Jammu & Kashmir scene. Around every basic principle, insincerely
and inconsistency were woven. Whether it is the issue of secularism,
autonomy or democracy, different postures could be adopted at different
times or at different places by the same leader. Of Sheikh Abdullah, for
instance, it was said that he could be 'a Communalist in Kashmir, a Communist
in Jammu and a nationalist in New Delhi."
of the Kashmiri politicians were adept in speaking with two voices. They
could be secular as well as communal, democratic as well as dictatorial,
accessionist as well as pro-Pakistan. The underlying motivation was not
principles but power - power for the person and for the coterie around.
If the Central leaders allowed the Kashmiri leaders to rule the State in
whatever manner they liked, whether or not it was in the interest of the
country as a whole or even in the interest of the State, they swore by
principles of democracy, socialism and secularism, and accession to India
was declared as final. If, on the other hand, any question was raised in
regard to the exercise of authority, or any personal ambition was checked,
accession became temporary and issues of autonomy, or identity and of the
personality of Kashmir were raised, and communal feelings aroused."
leaders such as Sheikh Abdullah, who benefited by exploiting religion for
political purposes, terrorist outfits, particularly those which were extension
of the fundamentalist platforms, launched a crusade for veiling Muslim
women in the Valley as early as June 1989. In a sense, it was the beginning
of the current phase of terrorism in the Valley.
call by the ' Hizb-i-Islami' - an underground fundamentalist oulfit of
terrorists - to the Muslim womenfolk in the Valley to wear veils or face
dire consequences achieved what a sustained spate of bomb blasts could
women were asked to move about with their heads covered in accordance with
the Islamic code. They were also forbidden from viewing televisions and
going to cinema halls. They were forewarned that defiance of the 'Islamic
code' would entail punishment. Simultaneously, Hindu women were asked to
wear 'tika' on their foreheads to prove their identity.
women in rural areas of the Valley - constituting the major component of
agricultural labour - do not have any tradition of 'purdah' which has also
gradually disappeared in urban areas with the spread of education and
wonder then that, even after three years of the first attempt to veil Muslim
women by force, the movement has failed to register much progress. The
acrimonious debate among the various terrorist outfits has surfaced in
Srinagar newspapers. In a full page paid advertisement in Srinagar papers
on June 27, 1992, the Dukhtaran-i-Millat (a banned fundamentalist women
terrorist outfit) asked Kashmiri Muslim women to observe the Islamic code
of conduct. Muslim women were asked to (1) Use Makina (an Iranian dress)
to cover their heads and bodies; (2) Abstain strictly from plucking eyebrows;
(3) Not to use any make-up on their faces; (4) Not to use nail polish and
(5) Not to exhibit any ornament or jewellery. The same day, Afaq - another
Srinagar newspaper - carried a statement, issued by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen,
which stated: "It extended its support to the movement of purdah only to
the motivational extent. There should be no compulsion or coercion in it,
as Allah Tigers, Dukhtaran-i-Millat or any other militant organisation
do not enjoy the right of imposing Islam, but can only motivate people
towards Islam. We believe that as women are advised to use the Islamic
dress laid down by Sharia, men, too, should be motivated to use such a
dress. Brashness or immodesty is not only one way traffic. It would look
odd that women would be in 'burqa' and men going round in western dress."
day earlier, Srinagar Times had carried a statement, purported to be from
the Islami Jamait-i-Tulba, which held that the purdah movement for women
was going beyond the limits prescribed under Islam. Some unscrupulous young
men bereft of Islamic ways of life have sneaked into the ranks of the movement.
In its issue of June 27, 1992, Srinagar Times carried a news item which
stated that the Students United Front has said that some militants are
trying to violate the sanctity of the university after throwing colour
on some girl students to force them to use ' burqa' within the university
campus. Some girl students fainted due to the humiliation heaped upon them.
The Union warned that gun-totters would not be allowed to interfere in
the internal affairs of the university, and in case they threaten any student
on the campus, their guns would be snatched to be handed over to their
after two days, Srinagar Times carried another statement of the Al-Umar
Mujahideen which stated: "Kashmir University female students are found
on the campus bare-headed and without a 'burqa'. The university is a citadel
of knowledge, and by observing the rules of Islamic Sharia in the university,
these girls can set an example for the rest of the girls living in society
. . . We do not stand for coercion in the matter of 'Din' (faith). However,
it is our duty to motivate Muslims towards faith. In order to set right
a society which has been spoilt by the Government, we will not hesitate
to apply pressure."
Muslims have reacted differently at different times and that too en-masse.
Their alienation from one leader or the other has always been total but
periodic. They expressed their hostility to Jinnah, the mentor of the two-nation
theory in the late forties when the 'Qaaid-i- Azam' was greeted with pants
down by them. They displayed their alienation with the Sheikh in 1953 and
joined the Bakshi's bandwagon when he later replaced the former as the
Chief Minister of Kashmir.
Abdullah was arrested on August 9,1953 at Gulmarg. He had earlier been
dismissed as the Chief Minister of J&K State by Dr. Karan Singh, the
then Sadr-i-Riyasat. He was succeeded by his deputy Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed.
The news of his dismissal and subsequent arrest spread like wild fire and
the entire Muslim population of the Valley was out on the streets, defying
prohibitory orders including curfew, to lodge protest against the 'unceremonious
removal of the Sheikh'.
successor of the Sheikh was not able to move out of his heavily guarded
official residence at Maulana Abdul Kalam Road. He was aware that Kashmiri
Muslims were despising him in the wake of new political developments but
he also understood the psyche of Kashmiris. He maintained his cool and
bided his time in the fond expectations of a miracle. His hopes were not
belied. Barely after six days, on August 15, India's Independence Day,
only three neighbours of Bakshi ventured to take out a pro-Bakshi and pro-New
Delhi procession from Safa Kadal, a downtown locality where Bakshi had
his ancestral house. They started proceeding towards the official residence
of Bakshi. More and more people joined the procession en route and by the
time it reached Polo Ground, it was a few thousands strong. The slogans,
raised by the processionists, could be heard from quite a distance, sending
shivers down the spine of the security guards of Bakshi.
along with the family members and the staff of Bakshi could not believe
their ears when they heard pro-Bakshi and pro-India slogans as the slogans
became audible with processionists advancing towards their destination
- Bakshi's residence. Looking from behind the window-panes of his sitting
room on the first floor, Bakshi recognised his neighbours and supporters
in the vanguard of the procession. He lost no time in opening the window.
He waved at the processionists and gesticulated them to come inside his
fortified residence. The people gate- crashed into the house, notwithstanding
the protest of the security staff and celebrated independence Day. This
development was only the beginning.
the next one year or two, Kashmiri Muslims seemed to have forgotten their
hero - the Sheikh. When Bulganin and Khrushchev, the Soviet leaders, visited
Srinagar in December 1955, newsmen, particularly from the western countries
could not believe their eyes when they saw the entire population of Kashmir
flocking to welcome the visiting leaders, braving the cold wind for hours
together. Newsmen were amazed to see Kashmiri Muslims missing their Friday
prayers to greet the proclaimed atheists.
January, 1958, the Government of India decided to release the Sheikh from
the Special Jail at Kud on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway (Banihal
Cart Road). Once again the element of surprise was in store for national
and international newsmen who flew to cover the event. A sea of humanity
turned out on the roads to welcome the Sheikh and that too once again braving
the bitter mid-winter cold. Newsmen were convinced that the Sheikh was
the only leader in the Valley and what they had seen during the last few
years was only an aberration.
Sheikh was soon re-arrested for his indiscretion. Within a few days of
the re-arrest of the Sheikh, Bakshi undertook an extensive tour of the
countryside in the Valley. The ever-enthusiastic Kashmiri crowds were on
roadsides to sing folklores, amended suitably to praise Bakshi. The hectic
tour programme culminated at Lal Chowk, Srinagar, where Bakshi addressed
a big rally. The Sheikh, before his re-arrest, had also addressed another
rally at the same place. The gathering at Bakshi's rally was not less impressive
(if not more) than the Sheikh. Newsmen were once again in a predicament
as they had written off Bakshi as the mass leader only a few days ago.
a Press conference, addressed by Bakshi, a foreign newsman shot a straight
question, "Mr. Bakshi, how many people are with you?" Without batting an
eyelid, Bakshi replied, "Forty lakhs." The newsman retorted, "But that
is the total population of the State." "Yes, I know," said Bakshi. "Do
you mean that the Sheikh does not have any following at all in the State?"
asked the newsman. "No, I did not say so," was the cool reply from Bakshi
who added, "Sheikh sahib commands a following of forty lakhs." "But how?"
the newsman threw up his arms. Eruditely, Bakshi calmed the newsman down
and said, "Even Sadiq sahib has a following of forty lakhs." G. M. Sadiq
had deserted Bakshi and the National Conference to form the Democratic
National Conference, another political party, some time ago and was attracting
impressive crowds during his public meetings.) The newsman was at a loss
to understard this jugglery of figures and his confusion was worse confounded.
He was not aware of the trait in the character of the Kashmiri who does
not believe in annoying anyone, particularly those who are in power or
are in waiting. The same population turned against Bakshi during the Moe-i-Muqaddas
crisis which erupted in Srinagar on December 27, 1963.
'alienation' is a myth concocted by the media and pseudo- secularists.
Such myths were also coined earlier with different nomenclatures such as
'liberalization process' during the reign of G. M. Sadiq was more or less
equated with alienation.
is the case with newsmen and columnists who talk about the total alienation
of Kashmiri muslims. While the visiting newsmen, often guided by local
correspondents and sympathetic 'human rights' activists get the picture
of total alienation of the population from the government and the state
terrorism, the politicians in power are invariably told by the people that
the residents in the Valley have been caught between the deep sea and the
devil. They allege on the one hand, they have to face the gun-wielding
terrorists who roam scot-free while on the other hand, they have to face
the ire of the security forces.
is the story of Kashmir valley where the 'jehad' with mullas, as leaders
in league with vested interests, continues to loom large over the secular
traditions of India, maintained since the Independence of the country way
back in 1947, notwithstanding threats to them from time to time by fissiparous
tendencies. It is not realized by mullas in Kashmir and their mentors that
if Jammu & Kashmir State (the only state in India with Muslim majority
population) opts out of India, the Hindu chauvinistic forces in the rest
of India would get an impetus and secular traditions would be endangered.