A Border Security Force official alights from his Gypsy. He hands over his gun to his orderly — and climbs up the flight of steps leading up to the hill. Here on top, overlooking the vast expanse of the serene Wullar lake is the shrine of Baba Sukur Din— the window to Kashmir’s Sufi cult — where “friends of god are revered by one and all”.
The soldier is with his family. His wife’s head is “uncovered” and no one raises an eyebrow. The young Sikh officer has come to pray at the shrine. This is the only place where BSF men can mingle with the local Kashmiris — there is no hostility. The shrine is the busiest on Sundays — when it is teeming with visitors.
For a country bred on Kashmir, typified by images of terror, blood-splattered bodies and security men patrolling the near-empty streets, Baba Sukur Din’s shrine is an aberration. An oasis of peace — devotees flock to seek the Sufi seer’s blessings after a rigorous drive through a serpentine hilly road.
It is located a few kilometres from Watlab — where angry mourners bayed for the blood of security forces after a Navy boat capsized, killing 23 schoolchildren. “This is a place of harmony,” says an old man, who identifies himself as Mohammad Akbar of Warapora, Sopore.
Akbar says everyone is welcome here and one can easily make out. Hindus fold hands in a namaste, Muslima keep their palms open in prayer mode — but no one has the time to frown on the “differences”.
“Buzarag hai, Auliya hai ( He is a saint and a friend of God),” says Ashraf Waza of Bijebehra of south Kashmir says. “I have come here with eight companions to pray.”
Be it the Baba Rishi shrine near Tangmarg, AishMuqam near Pahalgam, Charar-e-Sharief and Pakharpora in Budgam district — this harmony is visible everywhere. Faith is growing.
A grenade attack at mystic Ahad Bab’s shrine near Sopore, has brought no change or “decline in the number of devotees to the shrine”. Sufism lives on in Kashmir.