VHP claim on Kashmir holy relic angers Muslims
12 March 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The VHP’s latest claim that the holy relic preserved in Hazratbal — a Muslim shrine in Kashmir that commands the reverence of its people beyond measure — is actually of a Hindu seer has caused shock and dismay in the Valley. “It is ridiculous!” said chief priest Mirwaiz Omar Farooq. “They are bent upon distorting facts of history,” said historian Muhammad Ishaq Khan. Most devotees who converged at Hazratbal on Tuesday to mark the martyrdom of Hazrat Omar, the second caliph of Islam, were hurt and strongly demanded that the state control “them (Hindu fanatics) before it is too late.” The Dal Lake is Srinagar’s waterfront. On its western shore stands the single- domed façade of Hazratbal with an accompanying minaret, reflecting simply the noble and perfect proportions of the white marble shrine. In Hazratbal, the Place of Majesty, is housed and venerated a single hair of the Prophet Muhammed brought over three hundred years ago from Medina. The relic is known as Moi-e-Muqqadus (the sacred hair). The ground around the shrine is paved with stones and several Chinar trees growing within its premises enhance its aesthetic appeal. On Tuesday, these landscaped gardens, as on all other important religious occasions, hosted a fair. Inside the white marble shrine which is screened with intricate filigree work, devotees offer prayers seeking forgiveness from God. At the end of each prayer, the custodians of Hazratbal unbolt the Sanctum Sanctorum, take the sacred hair that is preserved in it out and display it to the faithful. All would return home satisfied for the sight of the sacred hair provided them spiritual succour. Tuesday marked the martyrdom of Hazrat Omar a companion of the Prophet and the second Muslim caliph (634-44), whose conquests added Syria, Palestine and Egypt to the Muslim Empire. Very few of the devotees who turned up at Hazratbal on Tuesday knew about the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s latest claim that the holy relic preserved there is actually that of one Nimnath Baba. According to BJP MP Vinay Katiyar, Nimnath Baba is a dharmaguru of the Hindus and was settled in Mecca. “Vinay Katiyar should be sent to a lunatic asylum… I mean there is a limit to absurdity and hurting religious feelings of people,” said Javed Hussain, a poet and banker among the devotees at Hazratbal. “Na’uzobillah (God forbid)!” said Gulam Hassan Banday, the chief custodian of the holy relic. “They must think before they speak out… they seem to have turned paranoid and need to be treated for this,” he added. Gulam Nabi Kochak, the vice-chairman of the Muslim Auquaf Trust which looks after Hazratbal and most other Valley shrines, hospices and mosques, said: “Those who indulge in this bakwas (rubbish) day in and day out actually want to create communal frenzy all over and push the country into turmoil.” He asked the government to take serious note of the highly objectionable remarks made by the VHP leader; or be prepared to face a Partition- like turbulence. “It is ridiculous,” retorted Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, Kashmir chief priest and founder-chairperson of the Hurriyat Conference. Hazratbal, he said, has a history behind it. “Apparently, the VHP and like-minded groups are out to vandalise anything that is Muslim in character,” he alleged. The chairman of the Muslim Auquaf Trust, chief minister Farooq Abdullah was not available for comment. Prof. Ishaq said, “How can I react to the fabricated views of the reactionaries who are bent upon to distort the facts of history.” “It is all nonsense.” Mirwaiz Omar said that Kashmir is a paradise, not for its natural beauty, for the state’s shrines also.