Amarnath Board Takes The Sufi Route

14 June 2008

Srinagar: The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) is holding a Sufi Festival in the city this month, drawing flak from cultural activists who term it as the 'politicization of culture.' Top sources disclosed to Greater Kashmir that the SASB is holding the 3-day Sufi Festival from June 19-21 at the Sheri-I-Kashmir International Convention Centre. The festival, they said, is being organized in association with a New Delhi based non-governmental organisation-International Council for Cultural Relations-and the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art Culture and Languages. Sources said the Sufiyana singers from Pakistan and Kazakistan are expected to participate in the festival. More than 30 items are being performed during the three days. A Punjabi drama-Bulley Shah-is among the list of performances. Only one Kashmiri Sufiyama Mousiquee performance is figuring in the list. Imdad and Sabri Brothers are expected to perform. It has been reliably learnt that the Cultural Academy was under 'intense pressure' from SASB authorities for cooperating in holding the function, a charge refuted by the latter. 'Yes, we are holding the festival. What's new in that; we have been holding such festivals for the past four years,' said Dr Arun Kumar, the SASB's chief executive. The function, however, is drawing flak from the cultural activists who say the Board was 'crossing limits by poking its nose into cultural affairs.' 'This is sheer politicization of culture,' said noted poet Zareef Ahmad Zareef. 'Such functions are aimed at playing with the sentiments of Kashmiris. One baffles to understand what authority the SASB has to hold the cultural functions.' A top official in Cultural Academy said the Academy didn't want to be a part of the function. 'But the authorities received verbal instructions from the SASB to cooperate in holding the function,' the official, wishing anonymity, said. Besides the ICCR and Cultural Academy, the Tourism department and Doordarshan Kendra are also cooperating in organizing the function, sources added. Senior citizens say the Board has no right to hold such functions. 'It doesn't behoove the shrine board that has been responsible for striking at the roots of the secular character of the shrine by removing its Muslim keepers after handing them some money as a one time settlement. The Maliks were there among the cave shrine keepers because it was one of their forefathers who had discovered the shrine. Further, the SASB has no right to organize the event like Sufi festival after segregating Hindu Pilgrims from the local Muslim population,' asserted a member of Malik clan from Batkote. SASB had reportedly approached Kashmir University authorities for holding the function in its Convocation Hall. However, the KU authorities turned down the request on the ground that the hall was not available for such function.