The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration’s latest measures to allegedly popularise Hindu hymns in schools, end felicitation of politicians at shrines and include Dogra monarch Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth anniversary as an official holiday have come under severe criticism from religious and political parties in the Kashmir Valley.
“Steamrolling J&K’s cultural and traditional practices, arresting religious leaders, prohibiting Sajad Nasheens [shrine caretakers] from performing their traditional duties and now banning ‘ Dastarbandi’ [turban-tying], which is a universal ceremony of giving blessings at religious places. Hypocrisy has no limits since BJP themselves leave no opportunity to get turban tying ceremony done whether at a mandir, dargah or gurudwara,” former Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said while posting of Prime Minister and L-G Manoj Sinha have turban-tying ceremonies.
Ms. Mufti’s statement comes a day after the BJP-led J&K Waqf Board banned the turban-tying ceremony or felicitation of political leaders at the Valley shrines. “They aren’t ready to stop until they dismantle all our religious and Sufi traditions to take control by implementing their divisive agenda,” Ms. Mufti said.
A viral video of students and teachers singing ‘ Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’, hymns taken from ‘ Sri Nama Ramayanam’, as part of upcoming Gandhi Jayanti functions in a south Kashmir school also sparked criticism from the religious as well as political parties in J&K.
“Forcing recitation of Hindu hymns has exposed the BJP Government’s agenda of saffronisation of education. Rituals and beliefs of a particular caste or faith cannot be imposed on the education system of a secular nation. Such activities can prove detrimental to harmonious educational atmosphere,” CPI(M) secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik said.
Congress leader Prof. Saifuddin Soz said the L-G administration’s decision to replace poet Dr. Iqbal’s prayer, which promotes love of God and the value of service to humanity, from schools by a ‘Bhajan’ “is not acceptable to the people”.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgam of religious organisations, described it “an attempt to undermine religious identity”.
“Protection of our religion and Islamic identity is, as Muslims our fundamental religious responsibility. It’s deliberate interference by the government in the education department. It will neither be accepted nor tolerated,” an MMU spokesman said.
The MMU said that efforts to browbeat Muslim ulemas and scholars and weaken their influence in J&K is being carried out, evident from the recent spate of arrests of respected religious heads.
Meanwhile, National Conference (NC) is piqued by the L-G administration’s move to include birth anniversary of last Dogra monarch Maharaja Hari Singh as an official holiday from this year.
“We expect vote bank politics from BJP but we don’t expect a constitutional authority to display such blatant political bias. The same administration cancelled a holiday commemorating the birth anniversary of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah claiming there are too many holidays. Now when the same set up announces a new holiday to commemorate another birth anniversary, it reeks of vote bank politics,” NC spokesman Tanvir Sadiq said.