Rajat Sharma

In the name of Khwaja, Muslims must unite and stop this dangerous trend

akb full_frame_74900Rajasthan Police has arrested Salman Chishti, the ‘khadim’ of famous Ajmer Sharif shrine, for publicly offering a reward to the person who beheads Nupur Sharma for her objectionable remark against Prophet Mohammad.

Police said, Salman Chishti is a ‘history-sheeter’ at Dargah police station, and he had 14 criminal cases, including charges of robbery, intimidation, rioting and attempt to murder, against him. Police is also on the lookout for another ‘khadim’ Gauhar Chishti, who has also made similar threats against Nupur Sharma.

Assistant SP of Ajmer, Vikas Sangwan said, Salman Chishti was nabbed on Tuesday night from his residence in Khadim mohalla. Sangwan said, prima facie the objectionable video was made when Salman Chishti was in an inebriated condition. He is being interrogated, he added.

In the video allegedly shot before June 28 and leaked later, Salman Chishti is shown saying: “ I vow in the name of Almighty Allah who made my mother give birth to me, I would have shot her publicly. I vow in the name of my children, I would have shot her. Even today, I openly declare, whosoever brings Nupur Sharma’s head to me, I will gift him my house. This is the promise of Salman, slave of Khwaja. I belong to the clan of Sadaat, Ahle Beit, I am proud of my clan. Whosoever insults our Prophet, must be beheaded, and I will gift my home and my land to that man. I will sacrifice everything I own to protect the veneration of our Prophet. This is the message from Huzur Khwaja Baba ka durbar. If He loses respect, what respect remains for us to lose? All these clothes and wealth are of no use.”

The famous Ajmer Sharif shrine was built in the 13th century in memory of the revered Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, who came from Iran to India during the reign of Sultan Iltutmish. The Khwaja passed away in 1236, and the shrine was built at his tomb. Mughal emperor Akbar visited the shrine no less than 14 times during his reign. The shrine was rebuilt several times by Mughal emperors Jehangir and Shahjehan, and the Maharaja of Baroda built a beautiful covering over the tomb in 1800. Lakhs of Muslims from across the world visit this shrine to pay respects to Khwaja, popularly known as ‘Garib Nawaaz’. Presidents, prime ministers and other world leaders offer ‘chaadar’ at this shrine.

The ’khadims’ (custodians) of the shrine had been keeping the keys of the holy shrine and the ‘toshak khana’ in their custody since centuries. Only ‘khadims’ are entitled to take pilgrims to this shrine for ‘ziyarat’ (pilgrimage) and they have the right to accept all offerings from pilgrims. The ‘khadims’ belong to the Chishti clan. There are 175 branches of Khwaja’s clan in Ajmer Sharif, and every branch (‘hujare’) is allotted a ‘gaddi’(cushioned seat) at the dargah. The ‘khadim’ Salman Chishti and his family sits on ‘gaddi number 119’. Since ‘khadims’ assist pilgrims in ‘ziyarat’, they command respect among lakhs of Muslims. No one ever imagined that a ‘khadim’ would make such objectionable comments.

Reports say, Salman Chishti made the video sitting in his residence, and uploaded it on social media. It was stunning for people, who revere the shrine, hearing objectionable remarks from a ‘khadim’.

There is another objectionable video made by another ‘khadim’ Gauhar Chishti, in which he is shown as saying, “If anybody insults our Prophet, we will never tolerate. The only punishment for insulting our Rasool is ‘sar tan se juda’ (beheading). We are ready to offer our head to protect the veneration of our Lord, and we are ready to behead who insults Him. Nupur Sharma has insulted our Prophet, and she does not deserve to live. Nupur Sharma Murdabad.”

It is difficult to believe, two ‘khadims’ of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti dargah spouting venom against an individual and appealing to people to behead her. Khwaja is known for his message of universal peace and brotherhood. How can a khadim of this shrine make such objectionable remarks?

It does not matter whether Salman Chishti was making this death threat when he was in an inebriated condition. Even if somebody gives a death threat under the influence of alcohol, he should be sent to jail. The question is, how did a ‘khadim’ of Ajmer shrine get the courage to call for beheading a lady, make a video and then uploaded it on social media. There was another ‘khadim’ Gauhar Chishti who made a similar video on June 17 calling people to behead Nupur Sharma. He was addressing a crowd near Nizam Gate of Ajmer Sharif shrine, and prodding people to chant slogans “Gustaak-e-Rasool ki ek sazaa, Sar tan se juda, Sar tan se juda.”

On June 17, Gauhar Chishti chanted this slogan for beheading, and on June 28, tailor Kanhaiyalal was beheaded by two killers in Udaipur, Mohammed Riaz and Ghaus Mohammed. Both the killers were moving towards Ajmer after committing the horrific act, and were arrested on the way.

Rajasthan Police had filed a case against Gauhar Chishti on June 25, but he is yet to be apprehended. There are reports that Gauhar Chishti had close contacts with PFI (People’s Front of India), a radical Islamist outfit. There are reports that he had also links with Daawat-e-Islami, a militant Pakistani outfit. Point to note, both Mohammed Riaz and Ghaus Mohammad, killers of Kanhaiyalal had received training from Daawat-e-Islami in Pakistan.

One more surprising point. Gauhar Chishti is not an ordinary ‘khadim’. His uncle, Sarwar Chishti is the secretary of the powerful Anjuman Committee of Ajmer Sharif dargah. The secretary functions as a CEO, who takes vital decisions relating to the shrine. In the election for Anjuman Committee on June 14, ‘khadims’ from 175 branches cast their votes. Sarwar Chishti won the election. At that time, he had told people that the remarks made by Nupur Sharma against the Prophet will never be tolerated. “We will take two eyes to the police, we will stare and we will also dare. We will not sit quiet. We will shake Hindustan”, he said.
Sarwar Chishti made this speech at Ajmer Sharif shrine on June 14, and on June 28, India was shaken, when a tailor Kanhaiyalal was beheaded. The killers made a video of the beheading, and then posted it on social media with their blood-stained hands holding the ‘khanjar’ (big knife).
When India TV reporter Manish Bhattacharya met Sarwar Chishti in Ajmer, he tried to give a spin to his remarks. He said, “it was Nupur Sharma whose remark has shaken Hindustan. We will not tolerate any insult to our Rasool (Prophet).” Asked about his nephew Gauhar Chishti calling for ‘sar tan se juda’ (beheading), Sarwar Chishti replied: “I am not concerned with what he said or what he was doing. Let him do whatever he wants in his personal capacity. Anjuman Committee is not responsible for this.”

These were the remarks of Sarwar Chishti, a leader of ‘khadims’. He was not opposing ‘sar tan se juda’ (beheading) threats. He was indirectly justifying what his nephew had done. When his remarks were aired on television, Sarwar Chishti came again as said, “It is unfair to link what Salman Chishti said with the shrine. Salman made this remark in his home and the shrine has nothing to do with it. Anjuman Committee strongly condemns what Salman said.” He then changed his tone and asked: “When people chant slogans against Muslims and Islam, why are they not prevented?”

Looking at the tone and tenor of his remarks, it does not appear Sarwar Chishti had any regret about “Hindustan ko hila dengey” remark. The shrine where he heads the powerful Anjuman Committee, is revered by Hindus too. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to top film celebrities, all of them offer ‘chaadar’ at the shrine. And if the secretary of the shrine committee makes such a remark, it is highly regrettable. He was sending a wrong message to people.

I would also like to add that not all ‘khadims’ at Ajmer Sharif shrine do not have such radical views. They speak about the message of love, humanity and brotherhood. They speak against those who incite violence. Coincidentally, there is another namesake Salman Chishti, a ‘khadim’ at the shrine. When India TV reporter met the ‘second’ Salman Chishti, he said, he has been getting numerous messages and phone calls. He regularly visits foreign countries to spread the message of brotherhood. He had returned from Paris two days ago. He has a large following among Muslims. But when the ‘first’ Salman Chishti’s objectionable video went viral, many Muslims were confused and started asking him questions. The ‘second’ Salman Chishti said, the famous Ajmer Sharif dargah gives the message of brotherhood and love. Those who speak of violence cannot be true ‘khadims’. He said, government agencies must investigate who is spreading this message of ‘sar tan se juda’ (beheading).

It is really a paradox. Both are khadims and are named Salman Chishti. One calls for beheading, and the other speaks of love and brotherhood. Only a handful of people are spreading hate, and not all Muslims believe in hate. They believe in love and brotherhood. But when the secretary of Anjuman Committee speaks of shaking up Hindustan, and then tries to justify it, nothing can be said further.

On Tuesday, a resolution from Anjuman Committee was circulated appealed to people not to use the shrine to spread hate and refrain from spreading hate while sitting inside the shrine. This resolution is however two years old. It was passed on August 8, 2020. The resolution says, the shrine must not be used for anti-national statements and meetings, since it is a sacred dargah, and it should be used for religious purpose only. I think this is only a routine step. Action must be taken against those who call for beheading and violence. When such objectionable statements emanate from the famous Sufi shrine, other radical elements muster courage.

I would like to point out to a hate speech made by a cleric from Boondi (Rajasthan), Maulana Mufti Nadeem, who runs a YouTube channel. His hate speech was not taken seriously by Rajasthan police, and the hate video got viral. In this video, the Maulana is asking people to cut off the hands and tongue, and gouge out the eyes of those who insult the Prophet. Rajasthan Police failed to take any step against this cleric, and on June 28, Kanhaiyalal was beheaded. Maulana Mufti Nadeem was arrested on July 1, but the case prepared by police was so weak, that he came out on bail the next day. The maulana was received a big cavalcade of cars outside the jail. The maulana was garlanded and given a hero’s welcome.

Similarly, a Kashmiri student, Waheed, studying engineering in Ajmer, posted on WhatsApp the picture of Kanhaiyalal’s murder with a caption “Bas 15 minute” alongwith a smiley emoji. It indicate he was happy with the beheading. Police traced his location in Jammu and is now trying to nab him.

Already Congress and BJP leaders in Rajasthan are taking pot shots at one another over this issue, but I feel, this is not a political issue. The statement of Rajasthan’s Congress minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas is correct that some people are posting hate videos in order to project themselves as heroes among Muslims. But the Congress government must ponder why such incidents are originating from Rajasthan. Are those spreading terror and hate feeling that no action would be taken against them by Rajasthan police?

Secondly, whether it is PFI in India or Dawat-e-Islami in Pakistan, they seem to have links with the killers or those inciting violence. These outfits are using the name of Islam, but Islam, as I know it, does not encourage violence. Majority of Muslims do not support beheading or violence. But the problem is that, there seems to be no effort in the community to isolate such radical elements, nor are such elements boycotted by the community.

Muslim community must introspect how these elements can even think that they can become heroes if they speak about beheading others. It is really very said that the calls for beheading came from one of the most venerated Muslim shrines in Ajmer Sharif. This shrine has a 800-year-old illustrious history. The dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is considered the symbol of ‘sarva-dharma-sambhav’. There are legends of how kings and commoners, Hindus and Muslims went to this shrine seeking blessings and never returned empty-handed.
The Anjuman Committee must come forward and give the message of love and brotherhood of Garib Nawaz to the entire country. But first, the committee must expel those who, by giving calls for beheading, are negating the very message of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The entire Muslim community must collectively do this work, otherwise it will be difficult to stop this dangerous trend. The beheading that took place in Udaipur is an example, that must never be repeated.

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