Muharram Conundrum

ASIGNIFICANT development deserving to underpin any discussion on the ban on major Muharram processions in Srinagar is the sterling work by some scholars in removing misconceptions and misunderstandings across the divide or schism in the Muslim world. Though by no means of recent vintage, such efforts appear revolutionary and extraordinary due to vast media exposure and seem to have attained the dimensions of a global movement.Steadily, a broad scholarly consensus seems to emerging on hitherto contentious positions on certain doctrinal aspects popularised by purveyors of half-truths and disinformation – the bane of all religions. A sustained campaign of convergence over the past two or three years, with some scholars from the sub-continent –the Valley included - in the forefront, is bound to have salutary results, signs of which are already evident at the intellectual level.

This exercise in conciliation and reconciliation is, however, offset by another enterprise, backed by immensely powerful forces, and far more global in sweep and scope, with deadly consequences figuratively as well as literally. It operates in a shadowy world and strikes with stealth with an avowed agenda of enforcing, and dominating with, its own peculiar version of the Islamic world view. Kashmir has so far resisted embracing such ideologies in their entirety, perhaps out of its sufi and syncretic moorings, but there is no denying that the Valley’s fabric of inclusivity is under attack and could be brought under tremendous strain. The series of atrocities this year on places of worship in Kashmir ought to speak of the desperate lengths some elements – whosever they might be – are prepared to go to bring the region to a point of rupture, or, at least, sow suspicion and discord. But the heartening aspect is that Kashmiris, in general, have refused to rise to the bait.

This rather lengthy and rambling preface to the subject of the ban on Muharram processions was necessitated by some grave and alarming reservations people in high authority are apt to voice in private. The context of such reservations is sharply at variance with the commonly-held view of authorities being wary of the city’s major Muharram processions turning into a vast show of strength for a particular political outlook. Indeed, this seems to be the least of their (authorities’) worries. After all, have they not weathered unprecedented and massive upheavals in Kashmir’s famous unrests? Provided they are not just so much dissembling, fears people in high office voice off the record make for disturbing listening. If based on reality, such projections fly in the face many established truisms, and speak of dire undercurrents raring to surface at any opportune time.

The question is, have authorities alerted the relevant sections of social, religious and political leaderships about these purported dangers and their wider ramifications? For, they go far beyond Muharram. The state is known to intimate even separatist leaders about threats and perceived threats to their selves. Is it not the duty of the authorities to make their fears and assessments known to leaderships - social, political and religious - on all sides for timely corrective measures?

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