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They do not come here anymore

At the symbolic epicentre of communal amity in Jammu, something precious was lost during the recent turmoil, reports Peerzada Ashiq.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2008 19:55 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

They came here to ward off evils, seek riches, ask for children, and pay their gratitude for wishes granted. Now, few do.

At the deeply revered Baba Budan Shah shrine, the centuries old signpost of secularism in Jammu city, a lot has changed over the two months that witnessed violent street protests in the city against alleged government favouritism towards Kashmir.

The protests were laced with a religious colour, creating a divide between the city's Hindus and Muslims for the first time ever since militancy broke out in the state.

"The number of devotees visiting the shrine has come down drastically after the recent agitation," said Muhammad Siddique, a caretaker of the shrine. "And it is unfortunate."

Devotees from all faiths thronged the shrine -- located adjacent to the Jammu airport at Satwari, about five kilometres away from Jammu city – before the agitation.

Members of the Muslim community say they felt betrayed by the 60-day agitation launched in June by the Amarnath Sangarsh Samiti to protest the government decision not to provide land on permanent basis to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

"We used to live together but now we don't trust each other," said Siddique, sitting next to mounds of money donated by devotees at the shrine.

Muslims allege that Hindus attacked them during the agitation and tried to force them out of Jammu.

"The Hindus had brought in two trucks of weapons to wipe us out," said caretaker Muhammad Farooq, a resident of the Parade neighbourhood.

It is not possible to independently verify that allegation.

Muslims and Hindus have coexisted in Jammu despite militant attacks on temples and massacres of Hindus in the province. Muslims also accept that Hindus had a vastly different stance towards them before the Amarnath agitation.

"The Sangarsh Samiti has infused bad blood into Hindus against Muslims. Hindus don't respect us now. Whenever we meet now, they stare at us angrily," said a Muslim resident of Bathindi, who declined to be named citing concerns for his safety.

Muslims constitute five per cent of Jammu's population (OF HOW MUCH?).

Unlike Muslims of Doda, Bhaderwah, Kistawar, Rajouri and Poonch, the Jammu Muslims have had a history of maintaining a distance from the separatist movement in Kashmir.

"They (Kashmiri Muslim) have separate problems. We have nothing to do with them," said Muhammad Yusuf, a resident of Khati Ka Talab.

The community has also rejected the separatist call for an election boycott.

"Our number may be insignificant but we will vote for a candidate representing weaker section of the society," said Muhammad Yusuf.

First Published: Nov 09, 2008 19:47 IST