Burning copies of the holy Qur’an or forcibly shaving off beard of Muslims may not be unimaginable scene or something that has not happened or is not happening in the world.
Besides reel world, these things do happen in real world as well. We have seen such acts being perpetrated in the leaked pictures of Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay or Begram Airbase in Afghanistan. Jewish or Christian extremists like Terry Jones also don’t hesitate to commit odious acts of burning copies of the holy Qur’an.
However, the religiosity of Muslims can goad them to do such an act simply appears beyond imagination. But, sometimes demagogues hypnotize masses to perform acts which in normal circumstances they deem extremely blasphemous.
This is what exactly happened in Kashmir way back in 1979 when lynch mobs of faithful torched “Maududi Qur’an,” put to flames “Jama’ati libraries” as well as “Jama’ati livestock” and forcibly shaved off beards of fellow Muslims. Ironically, all these otherwise blasphemous acts were provoked by whipping up religiosity of faithful.
April 4, 1979 can be described as one of the black days in Kashmir’s recent history when the frenzied mobs, in every nook and corner of the state, descended to target people associated with Jama’at-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir in retaliation of execution of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Lahore. The rioters had a free hand for many days.
While no major incident was reported in Pakistan on the day Bhutto was executed, Jama’at in Kashmir became target of “spontaneous” mass agitation. Why? What role did Jama’at-e-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir had in the hanging of the Bhutto? And who were the people who orchestrated this mass hysteria against it?
As per Jama’at’s official documents, the preparations for this targeted rioting had been going on for quite a long time by its political and ideological opponents.
An internal report (later published in book form) prepared by the then secretary general of the group, Maulana Qari Saif-u-Din, who also represented Jama’at in state Assembly from Khanyar constituency, mentions that right from the day Lahore High Court pronounced death penalty against Bhutto, the Jama’at in Kashmir became target of vicious propaganda.
“People involved in this propaganda were atheists as well as those preachers and religious contractors, who make fortune out of Islam, political opportunists as well as people in media,” says the report.
The report says that “the propaganda was in such a way directed against the Jama’at as if it was supervising the proceedings of the case in Lahore High Court.” Some newspapers, especially few vernaculars published from New Delhi, presented the case proceedings to masses in such a way that they started to look upon it as a matter of Islamic faith, which to them was told, was being harmed at the behest of Jama’at. They were deceived to believe that targeting Jama’at was call of faith.”
Though only two people were killed in this engineered mass hysteria, thousands of people were wounded and property directly belonging to the organization and private property of its associates worth a whopping 40 Crore rupees (estimated as per capital value in 1979) was reduced to ashes.
The structures damaged included not only the residential houses of Jama’at associates but mosques and Islamic seminaries too were torched.
As far as common masses were concerned, they were sincerely mistaken. Whatever they did, though constitute brutal oppression was out of their love for Islam–misguided though. They were simply under the spell of rabble-rousers.
Perhaps, it was the realization about the credulity of common masses that the then Jama’at Chief, Maulana Saad-ud-Din announced “general amnesty” and asked his cadre not to keep any grudge against those who attacked them. When Saad-ud-Din’s announcement was questioned by some people in Jama’at, he replied that “what people did was because they were made to believe it was in the interests of Islam. They cannot be blamed.”
But who provoked people? The stage for the April 4 1979 had actually been set in 1975 itself when the Jama’at dared to challenge “Sher-e-Kashmir.”
As a result of secret negotiations in the years preceding 1975, Sheikh Abdullah had decided to give up his “political wilderness,” which consummated in the form of Indra-Abdullah Accord.
Though he was made chief minister on Congress crutches, the “gutter worms” of yesteryears, the constitution required him to be elected to the House within six months. He decided to “win” from Ganderbal constituency. It was a time when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was considered as unquestionable voice in Kashmir. His was the final word on politics. But Jama’at decided to give voice to the people who contested his decision to wrap up Kashmir struggle as “political wilderness” for chief minister-ship.
Even though Sheikh’s win was a foregone conclusion, Jama’at fielded youthful Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai against him from Ganderbal. The party didn’t expect to win but it was a symbolic gesture for the world that not everybody in Kashmir was with Sheikh and that the struggle for right to self determination or plebiscite will continue beyond Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and bundled-up Plebiscite Front. This was a “daredevil” act which enraged the “Lion.” The result was obvious.
Tolerating someone to challenge his authority was not in Sheikh Abdullah’s grain. Those who dared him before had to face political extermination. This was his traditional weapon which he employed to neutralize his potential opponents including Chaudary Ghulam Abbas and Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah. By pushing them across the line of control, he wanted to have unchallenged field on this side of the bloody line. He was determined to nip every opposition into the bud. And now, the socio-religious political entity had blundered to stare into the eyes of the lion.
Not only were Sheikh’s supporters leading rioters from the front, even state machinery, including Radio Kashmir, was used against the Jama’at.
Unlike post nineties, when the party suffered the most in the form of elimination of its leaders and rank and file in huge numbers by bearing the brunt of counterinsurgency, Jama’at has done a commendable job by meticulously documenting the losses inflicted in April 1979.
The events of the day remain indelibly entrenched in the memories of people associated with Jama’at-e-Islami in Kashmir. Talk to any elderly person in the party and you will find that “April 4” “1979”, “Kunesheeth” or “Bhutto wave” as they remember it symbolizes a milestone that has shaped the collective psyche of the people associated with the organization. Besides surviving in the counterinsurgency operations of nineties, the group’s associates view “April 4” as an example of its resilience to outwear even the extreme aggression.