Shrine destruction part of Indian policy to erase Islamic heritage in Kashmir

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zia Sarhadi

Ramadan 17, 1418 1998-01-16

Special Reports

by Zia Sarhadi (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 22, Ramadan, 1418)

The burning of the 700-year-old Shah-e Hamdan shrine in Tral, Indian occupied Kashmir, on December 16 was no accident. This was the third ‘accidental fire’ that has destroyed an important Islamic monument in Kashmir.

In May 1995, the 600-year-old shrine at Charar-i Sharif was destroyed by what the Indian occupation forces described as ‘cross-firing’ with a group of mujahideen who allegedly had taken shelter there. No mujahid was found when the shooting stopped. Three years earlier, the library at Srinagar’s main mosque was set ablaze. A large number of priceless manuscripts were destroyed.

After the Shah-e Hamdan fire, home minister in the Kashmir puppet administration, Ali Mohammed Sagar, was quoted by the AFP on December 20 as saying that the government would investigate the cause thoroughly, adding: ‘We have nothing to hide.’ The people of Kashmir have no faith in such pronouncements who consider the Farooq Abdullah administration as unrepresentative and a puppet of Delhi.

While the Kashmiris held rallies to protest the latest outrage against their heritage, such activity is unlikely to dissuade India from its brutal policy. It is part of a larger scheme whose aim is to undermine the uprising through military might, sabotage, political and religious subversion as well as demoralisation of the people by resorting to gang-rape of Kashmiri women and the destruction of Islamic monuments.

While the latter two - gang-rapes and destruction of monuments - have no military significance, their psychological impact is immense. In a deeply religious society, the violation of women’s honour is considered a great insult. Hundreds of women, unable to bear the shame, have committed suicide.

The destruction of the wooden structure dedicated to Shah-e Hamdan, the great sage who brought Islam to Kashmir, was meant to deliver the message that India want to wipe out the very origins of Islam’s history in the Valley. The people’s attachment to Shah-e Hamdan shrine in Tral, 50 kms south of Srinagar, is very real; their shock equally deep.

Since the latest uprising began in December 1989, more than 60,000 people have been killed by the 700,000-strong Indian occupation force. That India should maintain such massive military presence in a state which it calls its integral part is ludicrous. Even more insulting is its claim that the uprising is instigated from Pakistan.

India, which claims to be the ‘largest democracy’ in the world, has drawn an iron curtain around Kashmir. Human rights organisations, especially Amnesy International, have been barred from entering the state since 1978. Even so, reports have trickled out painting a grim picture. Freedom House, a New York-based non-profit organisation, described on December 21 India’s occupation of Kashmir as the ‘worst of the worst’ where basic human and political rights were denied to the people. In its annual report on Kashmir (December 1997), Human Rights Watch/Asia said that since the induction of the Abdullah government, there has been a marked ‘increase in extrajudicial executions,’ in Kashmir.

Brutalities in Kashmir have also been condemned by Indian human rights groups. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Hyderabad; Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai, and Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi, issued a stinging rebuke of Indian forces’ practices in Kashmir following a visit to the state by their fact-finding team last year.

The Indian team was particularly scathing in its attack of random killings of civilians by the occupation forces. Their report listed a large number of incidents in which innocent civilians wer simply grabbed and shot dead. The purpose behind such brutality is to terrorise the civilian population. An even more insidious practice is the burning alive of innocent people by Indian-backed militants. On December 12, Bashir Ahmed Ganai, a 17-year-old youth, from Sundo village near Achabal, was burned to death by Indian-sponsored militants.

In recent weeks, the puppet administration has resorted to two other tactics. First, an unnecessary controversy has been created by declaring the Qadianis as ‘Muslims.’ This has upset the Muslims and created irrelevant arguments within the community. Second, the puppet administration has imported a maulana Inzar Ali Shah? from Deoband who goes around telling Muslims that they should not mix religion with politics. This government-sponsored maulana says there is no room in Islam for resistance activity.

The passive version of Islam this Deobandi maulana is advocating is contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an and the sunnah of the noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace. Both urge people to stand up against injustice and oppression. The maulana has not uttered a single word against the gang-rape of Muslim women by the Indian occupation forces. Perhaps, he does not consider these to be a crime.

India’s aim is to tie people in irrelevant issues while it tightens its military grip on the state. The creation and support of its own militants is part of this strategy. By their un-Islamic activities, these Indian-sponsored hooligans have undermined support among the masses for genuine mujahideen. People are no longer able to distinguish between them.

Muslimedia: January 16-31, 1998

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