KARGIL: Sheikh Muhammad Hussain Zakiri, a top religious and social icon of Kargil, who revolutionized this remote and impoverished region in the midst of Himalayas, is dead.
76 year old Zakiri died in peace at his home in the wee hours of Thursday July 28.
As the news spread people from far off places thronged his residence. At around noon some twenty thousand people joined his funeral prayers at a public park in the town.
A relentless fighter, Sheikh Zakiri remained active in the public life of Kargil, a key strategic town in the Ladakh region of Kashmir.
Educated in Najaf, Iraq Zakiri was deeply influenced by Islamic Revolution of Iran and its founder Imam Roohullah Khomeini.
In 1989 Zakiri established a trust named after Ayatollah Khomeini which played a key role, not only in educational and social sectors, but gave a new direction and meaning to politics of this most neglected region of the state.
By the time Imam Khomeini Memorial Trust (IKMT) came into being in late eighties, Zakiri had developed a large following because of his strenuous efforts for community welfare. He was heading Anjuman-e-Moeen-ul-Islam formed by him in 1973. This organization, through its vast network, was imparting religious education to youth besides advocating issues related to women and their rights in this deeply conservative society. He also opened a network of schools across the region for modern education of Kargil children.
IKMT under his command became a decisive player in local politics, though he himself shunned the lure of power politics and eked his living by working in farms. IKMT backed candidates not only reached state assembly but to nations parliament as well thus breaking the myth of Ladakh being a monopoly of a particular religious order.
Zakiri faced challenges not only from within by the conservative clergy but also from the established political parties of the state all his life.
He however successfully thwarted their attempts to split the community for their vested political interests.
Kargils member in the State Assembly, Asgar Ali Karbalaie played the recorded last will of the late leader during his funeral ceremony in which the departed Sheikh was heard urging people to remain united and steadfast and work for the overall development of Kargil.
From Iranian supreme leader to state chief minister all sent condolence messages and his funeral procession was representative of Kashmirs multi-religious and cultural mix.
There was clergy representing Shia, Sunni and Sufi orders besides Buddhist monks at his funeral. There were also political representatives, senior citizens and district officers.
Representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei in India, Hujatul-Islam Mahdi Mahdavipur in his condolence message described Sheikh Zakiri a combatant scholar who sincerely struggled all his life for the cause of truth.
Late Sheikh, along with a group of dedicated Ulama, made outstanding efforts with selfless courage and sacrifice till the last breath of his life, he said.
In her condolence message, the Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said Sheikh Zakiri, would be remembered long for not only spreading the message of humanism, love, peace and brotherhood but also for his contribution in the socio-economic and educational emancipation of the people of Kargil.
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