By Kulbir Krishan
May 21 has been a black day in recent Indian political history. On May 21, 1990, Maulana Farooq, the Mirwaiz of Kashmir, was murdered in cold blood by three Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) terrorists. The very next year, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a female suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the same date. And a little over a decade later, another Kashmiri political stalwart, Abdul Ghani Lone, was gunned down by pro-Pakistan terrorists, when he had just finished paying tributes to Maulana Farooq at the Idgah ground in Srinagar on May 21, 2002.
Mirwaiz Maulana Farooq was the spiritual leader of the Muslims of the Kashmir Valley. He was a great preacher and religious scholar, whose services in the educational and social upliftment of Kashmiris are recalled with respect. Control over the pulpit of the Jama Masjid Srinagar gave him a large following, which listened to his views with respect and supported him. He was consistent in his propagation of the values of Kashmiriyat, Kashmir’s syncretic culture and communal harmony.
The Mirwaiz first rose to prominence as a young 19-year-old who led the popular agitation when the Moe-e-Muqqadas disappeared from the Haztarbal shrine in the early hours of December 27, 1963. The Moe-e-Muqqadas is a hair from the beard of the Prophet, which is kept attached to a silver pendulum in a glass tube one inch in diameter with a silver top. This tube is kept in a silver casket which is normally locked securely in the Hazratbal shrine and taken out only on special occasions for viewing by the faithful. There were massive protests when it was found to be missing, leading to violence not only in Srinagar but also in some cities of East and West Pakistan and West Bengal.
Mirwaiz Maulana Farooq formed the Awami Action Committee (AAC) and made the protests a multi-faith affair, with Hindus and Sikhs also joining the demand for its recovery. The AAC gathered funds and set up arrangements to feed the thousands of protesters. It played a constructive role, urging the public to remain peaceful and also meeting officials to resolve the issue. The relic was finally recovered on January 4, 1964 and even though attempts were made by Pakistan to raise doubts of whether the recovered relic was genuine, the issue was satisfactorily resolved when senior religious leaders examined it and certified it to be genuine.
Maulana Farooq played, mainly, a social and educational role though he had political influence in downtown Srinagar. In 1983, the then Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) chief minister (CM), Farooq Abdullah, was facing elections and made overtures to Maulana Farooq to form a political alliance. This was very difficult for Maulana Farooq as his family and the family of Sheikh Abdullah had been having a running feud since 1938.
To end this 45-year-old enmity, statesmanship of a high order was required and Maulana Farooq joined hands with Farooq Abdullah to end this feud. More than attaining political power, Maulana Farooq was more interested to strength Kashmiriyat, and keeping fundamentalist forces such as the Jamaat-e-lslami (JeI), J&K at bay. This “double Farooq” accord paid rich dividends and Farooq Abdullah was re-elected as the CM.
The Mirwaiz was steadfast in his opposition to fundamentalist Islam in general, and JeI (J&K) in particular, as its ideology was directly in conflict with Kashmiriyat and human values. When militancy started in J&K in 1988, Maulana Farooq was quick to condemn the killing of innocents, whether by militants or by security forces. He showed the strength of his moral courage in December 1989 when Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was kidnapped by a group of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front militants.
The Mirwaiz appeared on Srinagar TV and unequivocally condemned this act as un-Islamic, and urged the kidnappers to release her unharmed if they were true Muslims. This appeal had such an impact that the father of one of the militants contacted a prominent journalist to convey that his son and the other militants had made a mistake and gave an assurance that no harm would befall Rubiya Sayeed and that she would be released safe and sound at the earliest. Unfortunately, her father, the Mufti, lost his nerve and agreed to release five militants in exchange for her, which led to a serious setback to anti-militancy operations in the valley.
The pro-Kashmiriyat and anti Jel (J&K) attitude of Maulana Farooq was not to the liking of Islamic fundamentalists and their mentors in Pakistan. This made him a target, even though he was not pro-India but wanted peace in Jammu and Kashmir. On May 21, 1990, three HM terrorists entered his house in Nageen, Srinagar pretending to be his disciples. They were led into his study by his 67 years old gardener, Gulam Qadir. A few minutes later, Qadir heard gunshots and saw the terrorists running away. The mortally injured Maulana Farooq was rushed to the Shoura Medical Institute where he was declared dead.
The HM is the militant arm of the JeI (J&K), and it was later learnt that his assassination was carried out at the behest of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence. His tragic death clearly brings out that Pakistan is not a friend of the Kashmiris and cannot tolerate Kashmiriyat as it is not in consonance with making J&K a part of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, India, on this day, lost a stalwart who was committed to the cause of “Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamooriyhat”.
Kulbir Krishan is a former IPS officer and member of National Security Advisory Board.
The views expressed are personal