Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2015

Sacrilege of Jamia Masjid

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

Seven international instruments, namely, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (ADRD), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICPR), The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (HER and EHRP1), The American Convention on Human Rights (AMR), and The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (AFR) all guarantee and protect the right to Thought, Conscience and Religion. Police of all countries is seen as the first and most trusted institution in the protection and safety of a citizen. Kashmir has always been an exception.  Joining police would not be regarded as a good plus in the society and the police was historically ridiculed as “pond police”. It was valued at one “aanna” (there were sixteen aannas in a rupee).

It is unfortunate that police in Jammu and Kashmir has turned into a corrupt and savage institution over the last 25 years. It has been used as an instrument of control and has a case to answer in the abuse of human rights, disappearances, custodial killings, fake encounters and extortion. We see that in its excesses it has been emboldened to restrain Kashmiri Muslim leaders from offering Friday prayers to a notch up in daringly erring to desecrate Jamia Masjid on Friday 26 June 2015.

Muslims officers in Kashmir police are divided in their choices to live up to the expectations of officers from Delhi and inflict maximum injury on the local Muslims to earn a favour for promotion and the civilised behaviour expected of them under international laws. It would be a dream come true to expect a Kashmiri Muslim police officer to refuse to violate the right of a person to freedom of prayer and refuse to commit sacrilege of a mosque for reasons of conscience. Young Israeli soldiers in Palestine, many American soldiers in Iraq and people around the world use their choice and refuse to carry out such sacrilege on the grounds of conscience. Our Kashmiri police has, in majority, lost its moorings of conscience and they are on the front to violate life and desecrate the places of worship.

Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, is partly right that any attempt to desecrate or harm the sanctity and centrality of the historic Jamia Masjid as a religious institution would be unacceptable to Kashmiris. The perfection of the narrative could be that any sacrilege of a mosque big or small would be unacceptable to all Muslims around the world and to every other civilised human being. Therefore, the police on Friday has erred against the collective civil norms to which people of all faiths and non-faiths subscribe obedience.

We join Mirwaiz in his  statement  that “Jamia Masjid was not only the biggest religious centre of Kashmiris, but its pulpit has always represented the emotions and political aspirations of Kashmiris”, and that all moves  “to harm the sanctity and significance of Jamia Masjid  will be resisted by Kashmiris with full determination.” However, it is important to set out that big or small a mosque is a mosque and every mosque has a right to keep its sanctity. Kashmiri police committed similar sacrilege at Dargah Hazrat Bal on Eid when its personnel carried away senior Kashmiri leader Shabir Ahmad Shah from inside the mosque and bundled him against all norms of a civilised behaviour into the police van, away from the performance of “Nimaz”.

It is unfortunate that the incident did not engage the interest and attention of other leaders and the protest of Kashmiri Muslims inside and outside the State. They forgot the wise saying of a prominent Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It is for the Kashmiri leadership in all camps to decide in what manner they wish to act. If they came for Syed Ali Geelani, you (all leaders) did not speak out, they came for Shabir Ahmad Shah you did not speak out, they came for Hazratbal you did not speak out, they came for Khanyar you did not speak out and now they came for Jamia Masjid. We have to speak out. Otherwise there would be no one left to speak out.

The elected Government has yet to break its fast on the sacrilege of Jamia Masjid. There have been condemnations from various people of conscience. Government seems to have been represented by Director General Police K. Rajendra who has said that “The allegations are baseless. Police has not lobbed any teargas shell inside the Jamia Masjid. Yes I can tell you that in order to disperse the stone pelters police was compelled to fire some teargas shots on the roadside.”

It is important that concrete evidence is gathered to challenge the police version and it is made amply clear to police that wading into a mosque is the ultimate sin that a Muslim officer or a non-Muslim police officer could ever commit. Director General Police may not remain clad in his protective uniform all his life and he should think of the rainy day when he walks the streets as a retired person, with a heavy load of guilt on his shoulders. The excuse of using tear gas to disperse stone pelters is no justification.  The use of lethal pellets on the Kashmiri Muslim youth is a crime in itself.

It is disputed State and United Nations has guaranteed the people the “freedom of the press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit.” [Para 12 of UN Security Council Resolution of 21 April 1948]. The guarantee does not stop at these freedoms but on a caution to law enforcement agencies as well.  The caution is addressed to the Government of India, which has to ensure that, “The presence of troops should not afford any intimidation or appearance of intimidation to the inhabitants of the State.”

The presence of police outside the Jamia Masjid, outside the house of Syed Ali Geelani, outside the house of Shabir Ahmad Shah and other leaders is a breach of an international caution served on the Government of India. The use of lethal force capable of inflicting life threatening injuries and disabling the youth for the rest of their lives is a criminal act under the international law and under UN Resolutions.

A probe into the police assault on Jamia Masjid should have been ordered by the Government (which is also under a caution of the United Nations). To make it credible it should have invited the opposition, aggrieved leadership and members of civil society to be part of it. It seems that Government has outsourced its duty to the police. Director General of police has said “We are investigation all the angles who is behind the stone pelting. I have already said that most of the stone pelters are minors. We will identify them and counsel them. We will also call their parents. I hope police will soon control the stone pelting.”

There is an admission that minors are involved in stone pelting and Government should ensure that police does not make a business out of these minor arrests. We have reports that Kashmir police encourages such situations and keeps on enlarging the list so that the broad spread is converted into maximum extortion opportunity. Police strikes a quid pro quo for the release of minors and makes a lot of illegal profit.

It is high time that J & K Government revisits its local and international mandate. As a start we need a Government as provided in the UN Resolutions to carry out the outsourced work for holding a referendum. Government of India has failed to keep to the terms of the provisional accession and has failed to refer the question to the free and fair choice of the people as set out in the UN Resolutions.

Government of Pakistan which continues to support the UN Resolutions on Kashmir, needs to upgrade its narrative and the manner of its political, moral and diplomatic support. It should start engaging the Governments at Srinagar, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Diaspora and the United Nations as a priority. If India has a provisional agreement of October 1947 with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan too has a Stand Still Agreement of August 1947 with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The latter precedes the former. Pakistan owes a duty to its strong constituency in the State and has obligations under UN Charter towards the right of self-determination.

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