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Bhajan in Kashmir Schools Fuels Outrage After Arrest of Muslim Preachers

Anees Zargar |
Other than political parties, several others have also expressed their outrage over the video, terming it as part of the BJP's continued efforts to polarise religious communities in Jammu and Kashmir.
mehbooba mufti

Mehbooba Mufti President PDP. Photo by Kamran Yousuf

Srinagar: People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday lashed out at the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led government for forcing school kids to sing Hindu devotional songs after a related video surfaced on social media triggering outrage in the valley.

The former chief minister shared the purported video in which students from a government school in South Kashmir’s Damhal Hanjipora are shown singing a Bhajan – Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram – with folded hands.

“Jailing religious scholars, shutting down Jama Masjid  & directing school kids here to sing Hindu hymns exposes the real Hindutva agenda of GOI in Kashmir. Refusing these rabid dictates invites PSA & UAPA. It is the cost that we are paying for this so-called Badalta J&K," Mehbooba tweeted.

The PDP leader, while condemning the incident, argued that the administration has been pushing for a particular agenda amidst the ongoing crackdown on Muslim scholars and leaders in the valley.

The song, first popularised by Mahatama Gandhi, according to an official notice, is part of the celebration of the 153rd Gandhi Jayanti in the union territory. The "All Faith Prayer" was to be organised in all schools earlier on September 13. The video is believed to have been shot on the same day.

“The School Education Department JKUT is celebrating 153 Birth Anniversary of Mahatama Gandhi in JKUT with full esteem by involving students and teachers for month-long following calendar of activities w.e.f September 5, 2022 to October 2, 2022," the notice from the School Education Department read. 

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar also accused the authorities of politicising education in the region.

“Somewhere in South Kashmir, these children are being made to sing Hindu devotional songs. Have our education institutions been turned into a political tool? The video is self-explanatory," Imran tweeted.

Several others also expressed their outrage over the video, terming it as part of the BJP's continued efforts to polarise religious communities in Jammu and Kashmir. The video surfaced at a time when several prominent religious scholars and preachers from the region have been arrested and booked under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) in what many see as the latest wave of restrictive measures by the authorities.

Religious bodies, including Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgamation of over 30 social and religious bodies, have termed the arrests as “unjustified” and also called for the release of valley’s preachers, including the head cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, incarcerated since August 2019. 

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Waqaf Board also banned Dastar Bandi (Turban-tying ceremony) at shrines across Jammu and Kashmir, according to fresh order issued by the body led by BJP’s Darakshan Andrabi.

J&K Waqf Board which manages the affairs of major shrines and mosques across the UT invoked the provisions of the Waqf Act, 1995 (as amended in 2013), and said they received complaints about what they termed as an “unethical use” of the platform of Ziyarats to appease influential people especially the political leaders through turban-tying ceremonies.

The body said that the leaders were invited to these shrines based on party affiliations to promote a "political agenda" and that the ceremony can only be carried out for people who have religious achievements with the prior permission of the Waqf Board, where a slew of measures have been introduced recently including the banning of collection of donations. Many view these changes as antithetical to traditions that were followed for centuries in the shrines of Kashmir.

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