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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 1, December 25, 2010 (Annual 2010)

Why don’t We Listen to the Mirwaiz?

Friday 31 December 2010, by Humra Quraishi

Why are we not ready to hear what Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has to say? Why is it that he is allowed to be heckled not just in one locale but in each city on the itinerary? Why is the so- called democratic space shrinking so steadily that there seems little room for discussion or for a healthy debate or to even hear what the other has to say? Why is it that those ample relays which are only one-sided, typically babu worded version on the Kashmir Valley ought to be in focus?

There are extremely unsettling reports, where voices and words of the ‘other‘ are getting crushed or being sabotaged. And if this dangerous trend picks up then you can well imagine what will happen to those who are in no mood to tow the government line or be part of the Rightwing brigades. Another Maharashtra in the making where the dictates of those well- nurtured senas seem overruling and holding sway. For, not to be overlooked is that rather apparent pattern—each time the Mirwaiz is heckled there come up weak preventive measures. And its only after much hue and cry and those initial ugly disruptive scenes that some semblance of order appears to prevail.

And this when the Mirwaiz is not aggressive and not hitting. The same can be said about Bilal Lone, the other Kashmiri speaker who was also heckled at the recent meet in Chandigarh. In fact, around the autumn of 2002, on the two occasions I had interviewed the Mirwaiz in Srinagar—at his home, at the Nagin where the Mirwaiz Manzil is situated—he spoke out as an educated person would do putting forward his views, his observations, comments, the historic perspective to the Valley and with that the very aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

AND though some of the queries I had put forth were not related to the Valley, he‘d given detailed answers to them. Let me try and fit in at least a couple of those queries and his answers to them.

To my query—you don’t look the typical maulvi sahib, yet why are you the religious head of this largest Muslim populated State of the country?—he had replied: “It is time that the Muslim institutions need to open up, Imams should be professionals so that they keep in touch with the changing times. I also feel that every madrasa has to have compulsory subjects and also technical education …Also, I strongly feel that the Imam should not be supported by the government or by the subsidiaries doled out by the government but they—the Imams— should be supported by the members of the community. It is time that Muslims strike a balance between the principles of Islam and modernisation and form a society which is morally correct.”

To my query—though Islam stands for non-violence, lately it has been associated with just the opposite; also, there’s been a general decay in Muslims around this entire subcontinent; why?—this is what he had to say: “So far as we, the Kashmiris, are concerned, violence has been thrust upon us for the last 45 years. We have been wanting to indulge in a dialogue, tried to get our rights in a peaceful way but see what happens. The GOI, with all the might under its control, has not been able to crush the sentiments of the people and our struggle is on. And even if you consider all the propaganda unleashed by the West, it is time that the West should see the causes behind all that is called terrorism. What is behind it is, of course, the double-standards being followed by the governments…Regarding the problems being faced by the Muslims in this part of the subcontinent and in other countries, these are directly related to the fact that they have not been able to get justice. Also, Muslims are by and large very emotional people and they cannot be suppressed by any government.”

To another of my queries—what do you have to say on the Rightwing allegations that madrasas are grooming terrorists?—he had this to say: “On the pretext of terrorism these Rightwing people are attacking madrasas …it is part of the Hindutva brigade’s agenda to spread all this disinformation.”

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