Why Kashmiri Shias are likely to reject the BJP’s trap of luring voters on sectarian lines

Written by Auqib Javeed | Published on: April 13, 2019
Srinagar: The Shias of Kashmir Valley strongly rebuffed the Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) attempts to attract their voters in the upcoming elections, and instead argued that the Shias of Kashmir have given exemplary sacrifices for the “cause of freedom”.

According to reports, the right-wing Party is trying hard to lure the Shia voters ahead of the parliamentary and the upcoming assembly polls to get some seats from the Valley.

Regardless of their backwardness, which they blame to their clergy comprising of Agas and Ansaris, the minority sect of Islam especially the youth said they won’t vote in coming elections, while others said they would vote on the directions of their leaders “come what may”.

“As long as the BJP doesn’t get an Aga or Ansari to campaign for them, Shias will not vote for them. It is as simple as that,” says Samir Ali, a political science student from Zadibal area of Srinagar City.

Despite several attempts, the BJP has failed to get any seat from the Valley and are now trying to push a sectarian divide to open their account in Kashmir.

For Javeed Ahmad, all political parties are the same and they have hardly done any work for the upliftment of the Shia community.
Javeed, however, says BJP is just after power and anyone associated with them is doing so for their own vested interests.
Reports suggest the BJP has promised to revoke the ban on Muharram processions, increase the Haj quota and separate Waqf Board in an attempt to lure Shia votes.

Saqib Mugloo, a Valley-based journalist says the BJP is as much an enemy of Shias as much they are of Sunnis. “The fear they have instilled in Muslims has no substitute and allowing Muharram procession or giving reservations is no solace for the pain the Hindutva party has instilled on Muslims regardless of the sects. They are least concerned about Shias or Sunnis,” Saqib says.

According to reports, BJP had conducted an in-house survey pertaining to the various religious and ethnic sects in Kashmir valley back 2011.

According to the data compiled in the survey, the Shia voters comprise approximately 14% vote in erstwhile Kashmir division which included Ladakh as well.

Reports suggest the survey also carried the profile of Shia population at district and village levels so that it could effectively engage with community voters for political gains.
For decades, Shias have been ruled by Aagas and Ansaries the two religious-cum-political families. However, the people say the two have exploited Shias under the garb of religion and imposing fear to garner votes.
Agas and Ansaries are two religious families whose ancestors have served the Shia communities for decades and who eventually joined politics and became the political leaders among Shias.
“See the conditions of Shias… we have Kashmir’s largest slum in Boud Dal where people live in a pathetic condition. For decades, the inhabitants have voted for the Ansaris but they couldn’t change anything,” said Shahid Hussain, a medial representative.
Rashid Maqbool, Assistant Professor at the Central University of Kashmir believes that what BJP is doing right now has been an age-old practice of all the powers since the time of the British. They may not create a division among Shias and Sunnis, but they try to exploit the fault lines.

Rashid sees this just an election stunt. “The BJP knows the fault lines of Shia voters, so to hit their nerve they have promised for revocation of Muharram ban, the increase in Haj quota and many other things. But the reality is after winning the elections they will not even like to see them,” he says.

The Shia population of Kashmir has in the past and continues to, participate in Kashmiri politics on every front, whether on the side of separatists or of mainstream politics.

“There is a wrong impression being created that this particular community supports only pro-India parties. This is a fallacy…like Sunnis, Shias are in every camp. So the BJP should understand that they can’t divide us,” Rashid says, adding that “the BJP politics has always been sectarian and communal in every state; they try to exploit the fault lines everywhere ahead of elections to play their politics and same applies here.”

Zafar Mehdi, a Kashmiri journalist currently based in Iran, says appeasement politics and ill-conceived election gimmicks especially of this kind have never worked on the Shias.
“Such moves have been attempted in the past too. We refuse to fall into this vicious trap. We refuse to accept India’s colonization and the insipid charade of democracy,”  Zafar said.
A top Shai cleric and politician, while speaking with TwoCircle.net said the BJP was desperate to woo voters on the basis of religion. “But they must understand the Shias of Kashmir are mature enough to understand their political gimmicks. Our voters know whom to vote for,” said Imran Raza Ansari, a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) politician who is now a part of Peoples Conference (PC).

Last year, in a significant move that sent shockwaves among the security establishments in the state, Shias in Srinagar displayed a portrait of Burhan Wani, the slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander in the Muharram procession to show their love and respect for the “freedom movement”. Many Shia youths have been arrested and detained under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).

First published on Two Circles