The execution of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto, on April 4, 1979, sparked off a severe reaction across Kashmir. The Jama’t-e-Islami was blamed for the hanging, and what followed has been widely condemned.
But within just five to six years, the Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq, who had sent Bhutto to the gallows, became a hero in Kashmir. The same people who had abused him in 1979 mourned his death, and also observed his death anniversary for several years. He became “Mard-e-Momin Mard-e-Haq.”
While an expert alone can explain this behaviour, Sheru has some black humour to share.
Several days before the execution, Jama’at activists were attacked, and their houses, orchards and other properties destroyed, by irate mobs. In Anantnag (Islamabad), a shop selling Jama’at literature was ransacked. Religious books were torched, or thrown into the drain. After destroying the shop, the mob marched towards the house of its owner. But before they could attack, the town’s ‘Dileep Kumar’ came out. He was known to many people in the unruly crowd for his roles in drama serials produced and telecast by the Doordarshan.
Mustering courage, he addressed the mob.
“What are you doing?” he said. “This is my house.”
And instantly, the operation was called off.
“Oh! We did not know,” someone shouted. “Sorry for the trouble.”
“He has never offered namaz,” said another. “So, the question of his being affiliated to the Jama’at does not arise. Come, let us move forward.”
When Sheru and his colleagues interviewed the actor, he joked:
“No one in the crowd had caught me red-handed offering namaz. This saved me from their wrath.”
(Ghalib had faced a similar situation once when a British officer asked him whether he was a Muslim.
“I am half-Muslim,” the poet replied. “I drink, but do not eat pork.”)
Mayhem continued for several days after Bhutto’s hanging, and the government remained a mute spectator.
Some prominent Jama’at members had to recite the Kalima afresh, and the ‘ceremony’ was held in the Anantnag stadium. Their persecutors believed that affiliation with the Jama’at-e-Islami had deprived them of their faith.
Time passed, and the situation took a dramatic turn in the 90s.
And this time, the actor was caught in a different trap. He must have cursed himself for not being a namazi….