By Sarbaz Roohulla Rezvi

Five episodes from the Shia Muslims of Kashmir

September 25, 2018

Episode 1; 1988 TEHRAN - We all rushed into the house of Sheikh Sahib. Elders with women and children. A big house that had access to different alleys from the back door to exist if Sunni mob was going to enter the house and we were able to escape.

Youth standing in the yard with sticks in hands while some were returning from the street with bloody heads and legs. Being an 8  year old boy, I was able to hear the voice of the Shia - Sunni fight in the street, though totally unaware of cause. Soon l got to know about the death of Ziaul Haq the president of Pakistan during a plane crash and the rumor about his Shia pilot and a suicide attack conspiracy to kill the General. Eventually the rumors turned Kashmir into a Shia Sunni conflict zone.

Episode 2; 1992

How could one forget the days, spent of heavy gun uproars? Doors shut as we rushed into to the house crackdown and engulfed by the heavy Indian armed personals eagerly searching for militants. When the army personals opened the door with a huge echoing noise, simultaneously a panic sigh spread in the house. I was shivering and hiding between the arms of my mother, peeping at the helmets of the soldiers strolling in the yard. I was deadly amazed to see the reborn scenario, since years had spent with no Shia-Sunni conflict in Kashmir. Soon several Shia youth joined the Sunni militant groups fighting against Indian army and the news of their martyrdom showered the valley in a blink.

Episode 3; 2005

Every other day there was a news about blasts in Shia mosques and Imam Bargahs of Pakistan by Sunni militant groups. The same militants who were mostly shouting for the freedom of Kashmir open handedly. Years after the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq by USArmy and the sectarian war triggered so high that made the situation of Shia-Sunni dynamics so sensitive in Kashmir as well.

“You want us to fight for making Kashmir a part of Pakistan where Shia are massacred? No way!”

This was the common argument among Shia fellows of Kashmir at that time. Shias were apparently known as the allies of India. If a check post or Yatra camp was to run, a Shia locality or Village was commonly the best option during that time span.
After a Shia-Sunni conflict was burning a neighborhood and mostly Indian army could undoubtedly been seen supporting the Shia minorities. Shia Sunni gaps were widened in such a way that the news of an assault on a Sunni mosque and massacre of Sunni Muslims was hardly touching the Shia community of Kashmir.

Episode 4; 2016

Burhan Wani a23 year old Sunni militant, with a bright face and moderate religious personality who even cared about his Hindu neighbors and surely nourished in a well-educated and cultured family gunned down by Indian security forces. A militant well-known to the social media users of Kashmir. His death attracted the lakhs of people and at a sudden became national hero for all Kashmiri lifetime, regardless of their sect. Authentic sources noted More than60000  people joined his funeral. And resulted in more than 100 days of consecutive sheer shutdown in the whole Kashmir valley.

Shias of Kashmir mostly following the Imam Khamenei were also receiving green signals from the speeches of the Iranian supreme leader when the name of Kashmir was mentioned beside the names of the oppressed nations of world, from Palestine to Yemen and Myanmar. The brutal crash downing of the protesters during 4 months with hundreds of pellet gun victims, boiled the blood of Shia even though there were few cases of victims from Shia community. Placards and banners were erected in solidarity throughout several Shia localities but still the correlation between Shias and the new upraising of Kashmir was not apparent.

Episode 5; 2018

Step to updates of the time, pinches one's mind to ponder especially of Kashmiri Muslims collectively. The rise of Hindu nationalism under the rule of BJP and Islam-o phobic atmosphere in India, besides India- US and Israel connections and the continuous human rights violations inside Kashmir, changed the boiling Shias of Kashmir into the steams of slogans that were heard for the first time loudly during international Quds Day possessions of the valley. Last Friday of Ramadan in 2018  majority of Shia gatherings in support of Palestine were accompanied with anti-India slogans and pro freedom chants that was a new trend.

This first step was completed with the second one in Muharram events. Pictures of Burhan Wani were carried by Shia mourners in different events receiving positive reactions from Sunni the fellows of the valley. Being deprived from the traditional processions of 8th Muharram under the pretext of security, this year Kashmiri Shia insisted on pouring into the main streets ending to the city center of Srinagar that resulted in several clashes with security forces. Dozens were arrested and beaten and many are still in detention. But the huge mob managed to reach the destined place and took front on the main streets of Capital city Srinagar and commemorated and performed the Azadari rituals after three decades of continuous ban by Indian authorities.

The message was crystal for all sides: Shia masses of Kashmir valley have chosen a new track. They will never play the game of Pakistan meanwhile cannot remain indifferent towards the ongoing crisis inside the valley and will make use of any opportunity to show their stands: from Quds Day to Muharram processions. The situation is a result of international and domestic political dynamics of India and more is expected.

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