Jammu And Kashmir Leaders Play 'card Of Religion'

12 November 2014
The Asian Age
Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: Candidates, including senior leaders of various mainstream political parties and ministers contesting the upcoming Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections are making a beeline to Sufi shrines in the state in apparent conscious attempt to bring devotees round. Though each one of them insists the visits are aimed at seeking divine blessings, their critics have termed the pastime as manipulation of the faith majority of local population has in these holy places. Kashmir is a land of saints and Sufis and the picturesque Valley has like Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state as many as 499 sacred places visited by devotees professing different faiths on regular basis. The majority within the majority community of the state Muslims strictly follow the Sufi tradition of Islam which has entrenched itself at the centre of cultural and spiritual life of Kashmir since it (Islam) was introduced to its people by saints from Persia about 700 years ago. They allowed the new entrants to the faith pursue those ancient traditions which did not clash with the fundamental tenets of Islam. Though this tolerant form of Islam is faced with a serious challenge from what is being called as purest form of Islam but for shrine worshippers is actually Saudi-inspired Wahhabism, vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims particularly in villages continue to visit mausoleums of Sufi and other saints or those laid in their memory or to preserve relics attributed to them. Ever since the election schedule was announced for Jammu and Kashmir, candidates of various political parties and those seeking election to the state Assembly as Independents have made it a point to pay obeisance at these shrines and other places of worship be it Srinagar's Hazratbal dargah or Mata Vaishnodevi cave-shrine in Trikuta hills near Jammu. Also, senior leaders of various mainstream parties, including ministers are making a beeline to these places. BJP's candidate from Srinagar's Amira Kadal constituency, Dr Heena Shaffi, was seen at the shrine of Sheikh Hamzah popularly known as Makhdoom Sahib, nestled in the southern side of Srinagar's Hari Parbat hill or Kohi-Maraan recently.