MISCELLANEOUS

Devotees throng Sufi shrine

RAJOURI (JAMMU), JAN. 18. Devotees of different faiths now throng the Shahdara Sharief shrine after a gap of 15 years. The Sufi shrine is a symbol of religious harmony in the terrorism-hit Rajouri district.

After violence erupted in Jammu and Kashmir, the number of people visiting holy shrines particularly in the Rajouri-Poonch stretch decreased.

The Sufi shrine is in Thannamandi tehsil of Rajouri district. Attempts by militants to project it as exclusive for Muslims had been resisted by locals. A year ago, the Lashkar-e-Taiba tried to bury one of its activists `killed in action' in the shrine premises but the locals and police thwarted it. The shrine is that of Baba Ghulam Shah. It is in the lap of mountains well-connected by a 30-km black-topped road from Rajouri town. The shrine commonly known as Shahdara Sharief is also a popular tourist spot.

Baba Ghulam Shah was born in the Syed family at Saidian Rawalpindi village. He made Shahdara his abode for the rest of his life. Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs from all parts of the country used to come here, offer prayers and seek the blessings of the pir. Mohammad Gafoor, a local resident, says, "The shrine is a perfect example of brotherhood among different faiths. It stands as a proof of the centuries-old bond among people of all faiths." Another devotee who came from Punjab says, "I came here 18 years ago and was longing to come again as this place gives me a spiritual uplift."

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