JAMMU and Kashmir Waqf Board has banned the Dastaar Bandi (turban-tying) of politicians at mosques and shrines across the union territory. It has called for “any violation shall immediately be brought to the notice of the Central Office for legal action in the matter.” Only the ‘Dastaar Bandi’ of people for religious achievements will be allowed with prior permission from the board. This is a move that shall be welcomed by a large number of people in the UT. As rightly pointed out by the Waqf Board, “the leaders continue to be invited to the shrines and their Dastaar Bandi is carried out on the basis of party affiliations to promote political agenda at sacred religious places.” This practice detracts from the sacredness of these places and it is good that the government has taken a firm step to do away it.
Earlier, the board had banned the collection of donations by trustees at shrines and mosques run by it. It termed the collection by trustees, locally known as Muttawali, as an “unethical practice.” The Board said it took the step after complaints from people about purported corruption. The system of collecting donations from the devotees goes back centuries, so its ban was criticized by some quarters.
That said, there has been much that has not been alright with some traditions at our sacred shrines which are an inextricable part of our spiritual and cultural identity. The money that is collected as donations at religious places should be used for not only the upkeep of these places but also for investing in the larger public good. And that has hardly ever happened in the Valley. Fewer individuals have generally cornered money. So, the system was in need of a long overdue overhaul and reform. Crores of rupees are annually collected as donations at the shrines and mosques and this money can be used to build charities or educational institutions. It is time that the public money is used for public good, not to line the pockets of a few.
Similarly, it was never a good practice to use the sacred sites of shrines for the aggrandizement of politicians, who used it to further their political agenda than to advance a spiritual cause. The Waqf has done well to ban the practice. At the same time also, religion is a very sensitive issue and touches deeply the lives of people. While the Waqf rightly takes steps to reform some unscrupulous aspects of the management of shrines and mosques, it should do so by ensuring it doesn’t hurt the sentiments of the faithful.
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