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Prayer Politics

Shahnawaz Khan

After days of high drama over the issue of Eid prayers at Eidgah, the climax (thankfully) came before the climax. As rival factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference were raising stakes over taking the lead in Eid prayers at Eidgah where prayers are to be offered after about two decades; the only thing that was in sight was the potential confrontation and clashes that could break out on the sacred occasion between the supporters of two factions.

On September 26, Geelani, the chairman of the hard-line faction of Hurriyat Conference had announced that Eid prayers would be held at Srinagar Eidgah this year. Geelani said, the main venue for the Eid prayers has been neglected for the last 18 years. So "to restore the sanctity" of the Eidgah he decided to hold prayers there this time around.


Geelani's announcement created stir in many quarters, right from the rival Hurriyat Conference to National Conference and New Delhi.

The government was in a fix as denying permission to Geelani for Eid prayers would not have been taken well by people, and giving him the permission would mean giving him a big political platform in the heart of the valley.

In fact Geelani's decision of holding prayers at Eidgah was a master stoke. In one blow he was restoring the sheen of Eidgah, as well as encroaching on the traditional domain of Awami Action Committee as well as the National Conference. The Eid prayers at Eidgah have been a traditional tussle between National Conference and Awami Action Committee, the traditional political rivals in Srinagar.

Geelani by deciding to hold the prayers was sidelining both the traditional players.

While the National Conference have already lost most of their ground in the last two decades, it was the Awami Action Committee as well as the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference for whom the decision came as a challenge. Or that is how they saw it. So two weeks after Geelani's announcement Mirwaiz Umar backed Anjman Auqaf Jamia Masjid issued a statement that they would hold the Eid prayers at Eidgah.

Still fine. Mirwaz and Geelani could offer the Eid prayers together. That was the best that could have happened on the Eid. At least for the sake of a religious occasion the two could display a show of unity. But that is not what it was to be.

The two factions announced colliding programs. Both announced that Eid prayers would be held at 10.30 a.m. Hurriyat (G) announced that before the prayers, Geelani would address the gathering at 9.30 a.m. while AAC announced that Mirwaiz would be addressing the gathering at 9 a.m. But who would lead the prayers.

According to Geelani's programme, he would be leading the prayers while AAC said that as per the tradition Imam-ul-Hai would lead the prayers.

AAC spokesman Shahidul Islam, when asked about the collision of programs and how it would be sorted out, he said that it would be sorted out right at the venue.

As the collision was heading to a confrontation that had the potential of leading to bloody clashes on the sacred occasion, people watched, with fingers crossed, the two groups announcing their programs.

However as good sense prevailed, Geelani cancelled his programme, stating that he did not want injuries to Nimazis.

Geelani however spewed fire at Mirwaiz accusing him of sabotaging his programme at the behest of New Delhi.

He questioned as to why AAC suddenly announced their programme after silence over the issue for two weeks.

He went a step further comparing Mirwaiz to the likes to Shiekh Muhammad Abdullah and other pro India politicians - a much despised lot in Kashmir.

"Over the years India has been able to influence people here and it has been helped by the likes of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Umar Farooq. My presence is creating problems for them and they want to remove me from the scene," Geelani said.

Geelani further announced that he would be offering the Eid prayers at Hazratbal.

He added that people were free to decide wherever they want to offer the prayers. However he said he did not want them to be a part of the programme at Eidgah held by AAC.

Reacting to Geelani's accusation, the AAC said that their call for Eid prayers was aimed at the unity of millat. General Secretary, AAC, Ghulam Mohommad Bhat said that Imam-ul-Hai Syed Ahmad Syed Naqshbandi had tried to contact Geelani for sorting out the issue. However he was "not available".

Bhat accused Geelani of misleading the people and shot back with accusations of taking favours from New Delhi.

(The Writer can be mailed shan@kashmirnewz.com)


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