(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master’s degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is working as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir’s composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television’s bi-weekly hard talk show “Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz” which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)
Fresh Islamist Movement Building up in Valley
Srinagar: With the clerics and separatist politicians asserting against “serious threats to the religion”— blasphemous pages on Facebook, recent conversion of some youth into Christianity, menacingly spreading drug addiction, promiscuity, flesh trade and spiraling liquor consumption— a fresh Islamist movement appears to be taking shape in the conflict-riddled Kashmir valley.
The ground is not as fertile as it was during the pre-militancy halcyon days of 1989 when groups like Shabir Shah’s Peoples League, Shakeel Bakhshi’s Islamic Students League, Asiya Andrabi’s Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, followed by Islamic Jamiat-ul-Tulaba, Hizb-e-Islami and Allah Tigers, shut cinema, liquor shops and even cultivation of certain species of flowers. The provocation too is not as sweeping as Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”. Yet, the inertia that has demobilized many of the frenzied religionists in the last over a decade of disillusionment, has not been all-pervading.
Even if the separatist leaders and clergymen have been politically at the receiving end from the masses for several years of high turn-out elections, they can be down but not out. Paradoxically, their existence and influence has received the best of nourishment from the politics of competitive separatism and appeasement employed by principal pro-India political parties—notably PDP and National Conference. Successive regimes have left no stone unturned to discredit the “controlled separatists” with mundane privileges like free movement overseas, importing of spouses and huge Police protection. Yet, at the end of 21st year of insurgency, the fact remains that this stuff of clerics and politicians is the liability for New Delhi and asset for Islamabad. Thus, neither discredited nor irrelevant in the Valley.
Cutting across ideological barriers, almost all of the Valley’s separatist political as well as Islamic outfits are once again asserting against social evil and “fresh threats to the faith”. This time around, the maximum of mobilization is coming from ‘moderate’ clergymen like Saddar Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din and Karwan-e-Islami founder Maulana Ghulam Rasool Haami. Mainstream politicians as well as bureaucrats from New Delhi to Srinagar have been privately hailing these clergymen as “anti-extremism”. Earlier this year, government kept its official machinery at the disposal of Karwan-e-Islami which held a massive congregation in Srinagar. Senior officials like Director of Information were seen conspicuously in company of these groups than with Ministers and bureaucrats. Official electronic media and Department of Information ensured envious coverage to their activity.
This very outfit today organized the first rally against social evil that the government has been hailing as the major source of revenue. On the other hand clerics like the “moderate” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mufti Bashir-ud-din have taken lead in denouncing conversions. In this race of cementing emotions, nobody can afford to be ‘moderate” as the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today succeeded in staging the first demonstrations against ‘serious threats to the faith’. Geelani’s well-timed call has come close on the heels of a blasphemous page though Police claims it has been got blocked.
First incidents of stone pelting, though still low intensity, were witnessed after months of calm at certain traditional flash points in Srinagar. Maulana Haami’s followers remained peaceful all through the route from Dastgir Sahab Masjid in Sarai Bala to Hari Singh High Street. Still, the crowds at Maisuma turned violent. Rounds of stone pelting with Police came with a wake up call for the authorities who are said to be already on red alert. In its first detentions, Police arrested at least two youth in Maisuma.
Maulana Haami served an ultimatum on the Government and asked Omar Abdullah-led coalition government to impose blanket ban on trade, circulation, transportation and consumption of liquor “within two months”. “If this evil can be fully banned in BJP ruled Gujarat, why can’t it be completely banned in the Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir?” he asked.
Will this embryo of religious emotion snowball into a full-fledged mass movement like in 1989, 2008 and 2010 remains to be seen. Weather appears to be conducive but season doesn’t. Traditionally, uprisings have gone into hibernation in the months of chilling winter. But disruption, like death, does not always keep a calendar.