Strong Iranian Influence Seen In Kargil Belt
9 August 2005
Kargil: Though geographically isolated from rest of Jammu and Kashmir for a major portion of the year due to adverse weather conditions, this Shia dominated belt is forging strong bonds with Iran. Besides the key Shia factor, what has given impetus to this trend is the regular visit of Kargil youth to Iran for being imparted religious training. Kargil was directly impacted by the 1979 Iranian revolution led by Imam Khomeini (spiritual leader of the Shias) which can be clearly seen in the markets of the town. Today the markets of Kargil are full of Imam Khomeini's pictures and he is the personality who finds a place in the hearts of the poor and ignorant people of Kargil. Unlike any other part of the State, here developments in Shia dominated areas such as Iran and Iraq are keenly talked about. Even a political novice would give a detailed analysis of the events in Iran-Iraq and also the latest statements of Shia clerics. Locals point out that the 'cassette revolution' i.e. the lectures and speeches of the Imam changed the whole living and religious standard of Kargil after the revolution in 1979. New private schools were established which are led by religious organisations such as Mutahhary Public school, Kargil (led by the Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust Kargil), Jafariya Academy of Modern Education (led by Ajumane Madrasae Istna Ashariya Kargil). Asgar Ali Karbalie, the chairman of the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council, himself a famous Shia cleric who has spent a number of years in Iran, says, 'Unlike the rest of the State, it is a fact that there is a strong Iranian influence in our culture. Besides the Kargil politics, the events in West Asia, particularly Iran, are most discussed here. Many youths here go to Iran for their religious training and vice versa is also true.' What strikes the most is the tranquillity prevailing in this belt and Shia-Sunni clashes are unheard of in this Shia dominated belt. A debate raged recently within the Shia society here about the way Moharram was to be observed by the Shias. Moharram, the holy week of mourning, commiserates the legendary leader Imam Hussain who died a thousand years ago. This Shi'ite practice involves the disciplinary and devotional practice of flagellation, a purification act to drive out evil spirits, a form of sadism. Moharram remembers those who were kept starved and hungry in the desert of Karbala. A Khomeini school which terms itself as a reformist institution and at present headed by Sheikh Mohammad Mohaqiq advocates that blades should not be used during Moharram - meaning that blood should not be shed. Countering this is the Islamia trust headed by Syed Jaffer which is against the advocacy of the Khomeni school. The rivalry between the two schools had also entered the political arena and did cause a vertical split within the Kargil society, in which the main support base of the Khomeni school was the youth. Anyway the differences were lately resolved after the intervention of a Shia cleric from Iran.