18 Mar 2021
Growing up in a Kashmiri Sunni Muslim family, I was always confused about the role of Shias in our society. Shias constitute about 14% of the population of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, but what exactly is their role as Muslims, as Kashmiris and above all as Indians ?
A community’s role on a broad perspective is defined from 3 yardsticks- its ideology, its contributions and the level of its acceptance in the nation as a whole.
When we talk about Ideology- well Shias have always confused the larger sections of the society. Some Shias claim their roots are from Iran, hence they are not very ‘Indian” in mindset but in fact bear empathy towards Iran. No wonder then, Protest demonstrations have taken place in the Shia dominated areas of the Kashmir Valley and Kargil against the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike by the US on January 3 2020.
Some Shias only live to harbor animosity towards Sunni Muslims as in many Sunni dominated regions of the world, they are oppressed by the majority of Sunni Muslims. However, there is no sectarian division among Shias and Sunnis over anti-US sentiments. Also inspite of the ‘opression by Sunnis’, some Shias claim allegiance to Pakistan since its inception was done by a Shia- Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Hence many Shias joined Hizbul Momineen (party of faithful), that operated in the initial years of militancy in J&K , which was set up by Pakistan.
Some Shias swear by Hindustan, because they can never forget that when their spiritual leader Imam Hussain was under attack in Karbala it was the ‘Hindustanis’ , more specifically a community knows as ‘Hussani Brahmins’ who came to the rescue and fought to save Imam Hussains life in the battle of Karbala. Hence, realizing the strong Sunni underpinnings of the “jihadi” organizations operating from Pakistan, Shias in J&K by and large kept themselves away from these groups despite being derided by local Sunnis. At one point of time in 2014, Shias even raised pro-India slogans, when some Sunni youths carried flags of Islamic State, a staunchly anti-Shia organization, in their neighborhood.
Where once the conflict between Sunni and Shiite was religious, now the conflict is more political. In Iraq, the Shiite-dominated army has been seen as a strong-arm of Shiite president Nuri Kemal Al-Maliki and an oppressive force by majority Sunnis in the north. That’s why many have been happy to have the Sunni-dominated ISIS take over the north.
So its clear that in some regions Shias are a part of terrorism and in some places they oppose it.
So what do Shias really want? My first and most obvious respose to this would be RESPECT.
It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s largely Sunni Muslim dominated society has forgotten that their founder was a Shia, Pakistani society condemns its Shia community to the extent that genocides drives are conducted against them, they are not given equal rights as citizens in comparison to Sunnis, they are harassed and humiliated to the point that they are not even considered as Muslims but as Kafirs.
India on the other hand bears no hostility towards them, and as citizens of India, they enjoy equal rights as Sunnis and even Hindus. In all closed-door meetings in Delhi and Srinagar, Iranian diplomats advise prominent Shia leaders that they are better off in a democratic and secular India than those in Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
However, surprisingly, we find that in Kashmir, Shias had joined hands with their Sunni brethren and begun to chant Azadi slogans against the Union of India. This surprising phenomena occurred after an incident in Aug 2020 when during a Muharram procession on the streets of Srinagar, some Shias were attacked by pellets shot by J&K Police cops.
Cops claim that they did what they did because the processionists were not following ‘Covid19 protocol’.
But what surprises me from the statement, is that, why did police choose to shoot pellets instead of distributing masks or sanitizers at regular checkpoints?
Why did some policemen harass Shia women who were protesting peacefully in a small group, the night before? No sooner did this happen its video was made viral on social media by journalists who favor secessionists, in other words the intellectual mercenaries of Kashmir.
We cannot deny that JK Police as an organization is ‘compromised’. Many who are holding posts of SHOs and SPOs carry anti national mindsets imbibed from Hurriyat ideology. They are definitely seeking to unite the Pro-Pak proxy with Shias so as to weaken the bond between Shias and their beloved ‘Hindustan’.
What I really wish is for the Shias to have a fixed ideology. Why should it always be based on ‘who respects and who does not”?
As per Islamic beliefs, Shaytan was Allah’s most ardent follower, yet Allah chose to support Adam Ale Salam. As per Hindu beliefs, Ravana was the most devoted bhakt of Lord Shiva, yet Shiva chose to retribute Ravana and support Rama.
What do these beliefs carried down for centuries, indicate? That one cannot choose right or wrong based on how one is treated…but one must develop an insight and compassion to see how humanity as a whole is treated. It may be true that a particular race of people are good and respectful to Shias but harmful to another race. Mustn’t then the Shias stop this policy of ‘pick and choose’ and define a fixed ideology that they should follow? Will this not be expedient in getting them what they seek and rightfully deserve ?- RESPECT !