Tussle over control of shrines leads to their closure
TUSSLE and disputes between rival religious groups or sects over gaining control over places of worship and shrines in the country are sad but not uncommon. More than religious differences, greed is found to be the underlying cause of tussle.
That was evidently the case with two shrines in Islamabad which saw sectarian flare-up and bloody feud over their more than holy affairs.
After all, places of worship, particularly shrines, receive big amounts in charity from the faithful and devotees. With almost no institutional check on the earnings and expenditure, the massive income invests the voluntary committees that manage
them with pelf and power and ignites greed and rivalries.
Even where they are allowed some nominal control over the worship places, the civil administration and Auqaf Department prefer to stay away for fear of stirring up the religious sensitivities of one group or the other.No wonder the Islamabad administration and police intervened in the two recent cases only when a law and order situation arose.
On May 14, the custodian of a shrine in Islamabad, with the initials of HIS, lodged a complaint that a man NHS, and his 15 supporters, had stolen steel bars, worth Rs250,000, from the shrine compound a month ago.
That delay in reporting the theft made the police suspicious. And indeed investigations showed that the receipt of purchase of the steel was merely a quotation of price from the supplier on its letterhead as requested by the buyer.
Further investigations revealed that accused NHS was the head of a committee formed by CDA to manage the shrine as a dispute had arisen over the custodianship of IHS and his plans to expand the 200-year-old shrine, which earned Rs35,000
monthly from 300 acres of land it held in trust.
IHS allegedly planted religiously symbolic flags to claim land for adding a seminary and living quarters to the shrine, which NHS reported to the administration as being illegal. NHS too wanted a seminary and other structures constructed but under the control of the shrine committee, not of the custodian’s.
Their rivalry led the police to quash the theft case against NHS and request the Islamabad administration to take over the control of the shrine, and the land attached to it, so as to avoid a clash between the two sides.
For six weeks now, the shrine has been standing sealed under CrPC 133 – a conditional order for removing nuisance – until the rival sides settle their dispute.
A similar dispute had led to same action at another shrine in the capital in April – with the difference that the dispute involved two sects. Although both swear allegiance to the saint buried there, their reverence is expressed differently – in the form of an imambargah and a mosque.
On April 18, one side erected a 20-metre high alam there and added 13 more in the next two days. The other side, however, did not accept the claim that they represented a centuries-old tradition and removed them on April 20. The police registered a case of blasphemy on the complaint of a member of the aggrieved party.
When the opposing party went to the same police station to file a counter complaint that a blasphemy case can be registered only after a superintendent of police had inquired the veracity of the charge, two persons appeared and started shooting at
the party as it stood outside the police station.
One person was killed and two injured. The police promptly registered a case about the bloody incident, naming three persons, including the one who had filed the blasphemy charge.
Since then, the shrine stands off limit to rival sides. Police and the city administration believe both sides had their eyes on the Langar Khana – free meals – and accommodation that the shrine, controlled by Auqaf Department, offers to the poor and
devotees visiting the shrine.